Since the beginning of the school year, the high school GIN club has been working on a composting project with the goal of reducing waste at SSIS. Below is our exclusive interview with GIN’s President, Celine, who organized and coordinated the Composting Initiative.
Could you tell us what your project is about?
“The Composting Initiative is a project that we, the GIN Club, started to tackle the issue of waste management at our school. We realized that we, as students, didn’t really grasp where our waste goes and what happens to it. It was almost like the trash can was some portal that took away any responsibility we had for it when in reality, our waste is damaging considerably the health of our ecosystems and community.”
What inspired you to take action?
“In a conventional landfill, the waste is left to sit in a pile with little aeration, releasing methane — a potent greenhouse gas — and leachate — a toxic liquid that often contaminates local resources. Basically, composting is when organic waste is allowed to decompose in an oxygen rich environment that results in a nutrient-rich fertilizer. To aid this process, we constructed three tumbler composting bins. We drilled aeration holes into repurposed oil drums, attached a door, and mounted it on an axle so that we can rotate the waste easily, incorporating more air into the compost. Into the bin, we then layer two types of waste: “green waste” that we’ve collected from the cafeteria (vegetable and fruit scraps, wheat products, egg shells, etc) and “brown waste” that the gardeners have collected (dried leaves, dried grass, paper). After that, we just water it and wait for the local microorganisms and insects to do their thing.”
Are there any local organizations that supported your initiative?
“We are so lucky to have the guidance of a local NGO called Gaia Nature Conservation. Ms. Huyen, Gaia’s founder, has hosted training sessions with us, helped us develop posters, and taught us the essentials of composting itself. Gaia does amazing work all over the country with their environmental consultations and campaigns and we truly could not have done this without them.”
Did you face any challenges?
“Of course, designing and implementing an entire system from scratch always takes more time and energy than you can really comprehend in the beginning. I had to coordinate between my team, Gaia, the Caterers, the gardeners, teachers, and administration, which meant that I really could not slack off when it came to organization. I had to push myself outside of my comfort zone in a lot of different ways, like working with power tools, writing up and presenting a formal proposal, and the hardest of all, understanding the nuances of being a leader. The greatest challenge we face now is ensuring the system’s long-term sustainability. To do this, we really need to bring out a culture of environmental stewardship in our community. We need you, as students, parents, teachers, staff, to get involved, have conversations, and take action when you can.”
What are your goals for the future?
“In the future, we’re definitely hoping to organize community events and activities that teach the importance of composting and how we can all be conscious consumers and community members.”