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Briggs Elementary School starts school-wide compositing initiative

What’s old will become new again at Briggs Elementary School as students undertake a school-wide composting initiative with school-related waste.

Jeff Murrie, the school’s Farm to School Coordinator and manager of The Farm at Briggs, said that the school was recently awarded a Recycling Education Grant from DHEC which helped bring his vision to life. Briggs students with compost bins

“After returning from Shelburne Farms, where I went this past summer for a course, I realized that they composted everything,” Murrie said. “They do carbon composting so they are burning everything that is compostable, bones, paper products, meat. When I got back to school and started looking at the amount of food waste that we generated I knew we needed to do something.”

Murrie said that the process will be simple but will make a difference.

“This really ties into the big theme of Sustainability; that is kind of the umbrella of everything we’re doing this year and probably will be doing forever,” Murrie said. “Everything that we do at the farm fits under that but it also goes to the human aspect of sustaining people to have a better, healthy, outcome. This grant will allow us to add another layer to our sustainability efforts.”

DHEC helped the school’s Sustainability Committee obtain a composting license and Central United Methodist Church built a four-station composter near The Farm at Briggs.

“Every classroom is getting an orange bucket and they will collect classroom-generated compostables,” Murrie said. “They will bring me their bucket on the days their class comes to me for Farm to School. We will weigh their compost and collect data on food waste. We will contribute that class compost to the outside compost. We will also start training for collecting cans and water bottles in anticipation of starting recycling next year.”

Murrie said that it is important for students to understand what happens to the waste that they generate.

“A lot of kids will take one bite out of something and then throw it away,” Murrie said. “Now whatever they don’t eat we will collect in a bucket and turn it into compost, which has numerous benefits.”

Signs attached to the classroom and cafeteria compost buckets let students know that they can compost coffee grounds, raw fruits and vegetables, pencil shavings and egg shells.

New Farm to School classroom ‘pets’ will also help with the composting project. 

“We purchased an Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm kit,” Murrie said. “The kids are having a lot of fun with their 3,000 new pets. Some of the kindergartens thought they were getting 3,000 puppies but they got worms.”

Along with tying in Briggs’ efforts in sustainability, collecting the compost directly relates to Briggs’ status as a Leader in Me School, Murrie said.

“Students will be the ones taking responsibility for composting,” he said. “There will be Compost Cheerleaders in each classroom and they will remind their classmates to compost and will be the ones to bring the classroom bucket to my class. Three of the Leader in Me principles are responsibility, independence and helpfulness and this initiative includes all of those.”

Teaching children from a young age to live responsibly, Murrie said, leaves an impact on generations.

“I wanted us to be able to experience watching something from the beginning to the end,” Murrie said. “We are growing plants and now we are composting our food waste. These things are having a huge impact on our kids. A teacher’s child, of her own accord, has started doing research on grocery stores and what they are doing with their food waste; she has found all this data and I didn’t even ask her to do it. The really great thing about it is that it will have a generational impact; if we can get these children to understand limiting waste they will raise children that will want to do the same thing.”