Spring has been an exciting time at the Antonito Home School Consortium (AHSC). AHSC is an educational program of Conejos Clean Water (CCW), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. AHSC specializes in social justice programming utilizing a critical cultural pedagogy curriculum. With the help of Zero Waste Services (ZWS), AHSC was able to obtain funding to implement a zero-waste program at their school.
“It all began with the LatinasGive Foundation Grant” said co-founder Andrea Guajardo, “We saw an opportunity to convert AHSC to a zero waste school and we went for it.” ZWS applied for the $1,500 last fall. Out of 85 applicants, they were one of 11 recipients of funding.
The funding allowed ZWS to procure the equipment needed to go zero waste. This included purchasing twelve recycling bins for the classroom and kitchen, an outdoor tumbler composter, and three wire bins for landscaping waste.
ZWS developed a plan to execute the zero-waste program during spring break. This plan included developing a training program for the students, coordinating with community members to receive the shipment of supplies, and recruiting volunteers to assemble the composting equipment.
Once spring arrived, students were immersed in their training. They were taught composting basics, what can and cannot be recycled, and how to pack a zero-waste lunch. In addition, Miguel Guajardo made a special presentation to the class on the Pacific Ocean garbage patch to reiterate the importance of recycling plastic. The training included getting acquainted with the new equipment, which had been assembled by community volunteers.
After the training was completed, students and parents were asked to sign a zero-waste pledge. This pledge demonstrated the school’s commitment to recycle, compost, and volunteer their time to ensure the zero-waste program is successful. All pledges were signed enthusiastically.
The execution of this project could not have happened without the support of the Antonito community. Natural leaders seemed to emerge everywhere. When packages where shipped to the wrong locations, CCW Finance Director Mike Trujillo made sure to track them all down so that the project could meet its launch date. When ZWS experienced technical difficulties during the training presentation, student Evan Garcia stepped up to resolve the issue. Another student, Hayden Poe, made a suggestion to add composting duties to the school’s chore list to ensure the program would be successful and so that everyone would be involved.
The implementation of this project has sparked further environmental interest at the school. Since the students are going to be generating their own compost, they wanted to have an opportunity to utilize it for a school garden. ZWS helped foster this interest by providing the school with seeds that were generously donated by Denver Urban Gardens. Students also plan to bring heirloom seeds from their home gardens. ZWS provided recycled potting containers that had been previously used in years past from their annual Sip and Sow events (as to not purchase new potting containers). Furthermore, the students are hopeful to the possibility of turning the compost program into a social enterprise and are considering selling some of the compost they generate.
Previously, AHSC was recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass. Now with the option to compost, the school is hopeful to divert over two tons of waste per year.