SILVER SPRING, Md. — Composting is a natural decomposition process in which microorganisms break down materials such as grass clippings, coffee grounds, old flowers and weeds, and shredded paper to create a mass of decomposed material. Composting combines basic chemistry and meteorology to create an ideal environment in which microorganisms can thrive.
This waste management process is being used in schools and communities across the country, but one of the most recent endeavors is happening at Montgomery Blair High School.
Elizabeth Levien, a chemistry and horticulture teacher at Blair, has been at the forefront of the composting initiative in the school.
Levien says she was inspired to bring composting to the schools after the success of in-school gardening programs and to provide free composting services for the community.
The project was approved during the summer of 2017, while the construction of Blair’s compost system, called Compost Knox, began in Feb. of 2018. Levien says the design was chosen for its “rodent-resistant” features, crucial in a school urban environment.
Urban Farm Plans, the company from which the design plans for Compost Knox were purchased, says the design “maximizes composting efficiency, scalability, and deployability.”
Levien hopes for composting at Blair will not only “divert food waste” but also “bring people together” and create “a more resilient community.” “I’m looking for a very passionate group of students that get why this is such a cool project,” Levien says.
Her goal is for the composting program to eventually be “student-led” with student collecting food scraps at school or from nearby businesses.
Although Levien is planning a community-based effort in school, there are many other ways people can get involved in composting.
Montgomery County is home to one of the largest composting services in the area, the Compost Crew. The Compost Crew is a local startup company founded in 2011 by Walt Whitman High School alumni and has progressively expanded from the Bethesda area to reach the parts of Baltimore County.
The Compost Crew is a system in which customers place “food scraps in the bin” provided by the company and they “take care of the rest at a local composting facility.”
Jana Garrett, a resident of Woodmoor, a neighborhood in the Blair area, is a regular customer of the Compost Crew.
Garrett has been a composter for around 5 years but recently switched from community composting to the Composting Crew. Garrett says that the Compost Crew is “a reasonable arrangement” and the process is “convenient.”
Levien has high hopes for the composting program at Montgomery Blair and composting in the district overall, saying “That’s the dream. That every school, whether it’s an elementary or high school, is composting and then they’re using it.”