Glenwood Jr. High School teacher wins $16,000 Ohio EPA grant for ambitious composting project
By Bruce Walton
A small composting system sits in the courtyard of Glenwood Junior High School, and some teachers dispose of their biodegradable waste there from time to time.
Science teacher Laura Kibby started the system to help the environment and promote waste reduction. Now, that composting system will be dwarfed in comparison to a new one Kibby will have after winning a highly competitive $16,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Out of about 20 competitors, Kibby and her school received the Ohio Environmental Education Fund Grant for an Earth Tub composting system that will be placed in the school courtyard.
The Earth Tub, from Green Mountain Technologies, is very different from the small composting system Kibby now has there. The small composting system uses vermicomposting, incorporating earthworms to break down the waste. The Earth Tub rotates and heats the waste, able to compost up to 100 pounds per day. The compost will be used mainly as fertilizer for the pollinator habitats and produce gardens in the school’s courtyard. Aside from the environmental benefit, Kibby said she’s also planning to incorporate composting into the school’s lesson plans.
“With this composting system, it’s going to allow a new avenue for kids to take,” she said. “It’s going to allow teachers to maybe feel more comfortable in giving them more real world options.”
The idea came to her after attending a composting seminar in 2015 where she learned about the advantages of composting to produce fresh fertilizer for plant growth and reducing biodegradable waste ending up in a landfill. She first started composting at home, then brought composting to the school. After the first composting system, she wanted to do more. This lead to a waste audit.
With the help of students, she gathered a day’s worth of trash to analyze the waste her school produced. The audit yielded surprising results: The school produces about 100 pounds of waste a day from just the cafeteria, with about 35 percent of the waste being biodegradable.
During the cycle in which Boardman Local Schools was awarded, a total 20 general grant applications were submitted, according to the Ohio EPA. Although Ohio EPA’s grant reviewers must remain anonymous, one comment on the project Kibby submitted commended its uniqueness.
“There are many possible ways for the teachers to utilize the composting equipment and project to facilitate real learning opportunities specifically applicable and meaningful to their students and potentially the community at large,” the anonymous reviewer said. The Earth Tub should be installed at the beginning of the academic year this fall.