Sustainability Class Wins State Award

You are here

A food-waste reduction campaign implemented by the Upper School Sustainability class recently won second place (tied with Jennings High School) in a statewide competition! At last Friday’s morning meeting, Principia received a trophy and cash award of $250 from a representative of Green Schools Quest.

Initiated a few years ago by the Missouri chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Green Schools Quest is a project-based competition that challenges schools “to devise and implement . . . the most creative, effective, and no- or low-cost sustainable practice for their schools—because where we learn matters!”

As part of their yearlong class, taught by Lynne Scott (C’01) and Ross Furbush (US’11), students decided to take the challenge to heart and focus on reducing waste at the School. The School Dining Room already composts food waste, which reduces Principia’s overall amount of trash destined for landfills. But the students wanted to take it one step further and reduce the amount of food going into the compost bin. To establish a baseline, they weighed the compost bins in the fall and calculated that 980 lbs. of food was wasted over a period of 14 days. That spurred them to set the following goals: reduce food waste by at least 10 percent; raise awareness about how individual choices impact larger issues; and get other students excited about composting.  

“Our priority was to educate the student body about why it is important to be conscious of personal and global food waste and how green practices, such as composting, help mitigate food waste,” the students wrote in their project report to Quest. They did this through videos, skits, posters, and morning assembly and lunchtime announcements that also extended to Lower and Middle School students, since they share the same Dining Room.

One innovation was using the Upper School’s newly introduced House system, which includes friendly competition among the four Houses. The class worked with Director of Experiential Education Charley Martin to establish a “compost competition” category, in which the House with the least amount of food waste at the end of each week could earn points toward its annual tally. (Learn more about the House system in this month’s Principia News video.) The students purchased four bins, each labeled with a House color, and weighed them at the end of each Upper School lunch. On the competition kick-off day, students and faculty House leaders wore their House t-shirts—both to encourage house spirit and, as the report says, “to ensure that students were honest when placing their food into their corresponding house bin!” (Purple House was the winner.)

Two-person teams within the Sustainability class also had to work on related sub-projects. The Principia Clean Plate Club Instagram account was one such project—which posted daily photos of new “members” as well as weekly data. More than half the Upper School students “followed” this account, and the hope is that future Sustainability classes will continue to use it.

In a post-project survey, 81.3 percent of the student body indicated that the House competition changed their views about food waste in a significant way, and 70.5 percent reported they had seen a reduction in their own food waste. The data also shows that the amount of Dining Room food waste has dropped by nearly 21 lbs. a week.