GDS students forge partnership with local farm

In this article, Ethan explains some of the steps his Global Development Studies group has done in the investigation and preparation portions of their service learning cycle. Their goal is to implement a PK-12 Bokashi composting system to handle all of the school's good waste. 

by Ethan D.,

Global Development Studies student

Every day, we consume a variety of foods, from noodles to sandwiches. Every day, we throw away some of the food we don’t consume. Every day, that food is taken to a landfill and tossed in a mound amidst piles and piles of other food. This is a continuous negative cycle based on our eating habits and even if we try to reduce our food waste, we still throw away some fresh and edible food.

I admit I’m guilty of doing this; some days I just might not be that hungry or I might not like a certain food Whatever the reason, I still throw some food away.

While discarded food might seem like a simple issue, it is actually a major accelerator of climate change because food waste emits methane and other greenhouse gases.

As students in Global Development Studies, we decided this issue was too pressing to ignore as climate change gradually deteriorates our planet. Our high school and middle school divisions are guilty of producing between 280-300kg of food waste daily. This is a major problem. A Global Issues Network group is running a campaign to raise awareness of this issue to encourage students to only take as much food as they can eat in the cafeteria to reduce our overall food waste. And it's working! Food waste volume is reducing, which is good news, but about 2/3 of the food waste generated on campus comes from the preparation and cooking of meals, and that's trickier to manage. Our group decided one solution would be to implement an extensive composting program to deal with our kitchen waste. 

The bokashi composting system - the system we have researched and proposed - uses a special bacteria in an anaerobic environment to ferment food waste. In addition, this bacteria is fast-acting, meaning it only takes four weeks to be fully transformed into usable fermented food. This fermented food is mixed with soil and, after a few weeks, it will imbed the products into the soil. This process results in a lot of nutrients for soil, accelerating growth and productivity. 

Our group has been worked with Mr. Baermann and the Operations team to brainstorm ideas for implementing a PK-12 composting system, and for a sustainable plan to work, we need to partner with local farms to ensure we can transport all of our food waste off-site to be composted and used. So last month, we did some digging, contacting local farms in and around Shanghai. 

The first farm that we connected with, 上海同初安心机农场 (Shanghai TongChu Organic Farm), is on Chongming Island. We visited the farm and explored the expansive space they have for growing vegetables while also explaining our proposition to the owners of the farm. Earnest to become more sustainable, they agreed to receive and use 150kg of our food waste each month. We are hoping to partner with the owners of this farm to create a long-term partnership.

We still have a lot of work to do to realize our goals and get our composting project underway, and we are excited to keep forging ahead, pursuing sustainability in our community. Imagine the change that we could make if all the farms in Shanghai were using food waste and compost to grow vegetables and other wonderful produce. A couple of farms may seem insignificant now, but in the future it may completely revise the way we deal with food waste.

While this method of recycling our food waste is beneficial for the environment, the best way that you and others can benefit the environment is by reducing your food waste overall. Our goal should still be to reduce our food waste, and then compost the minimal food waste remaining. 

This type of change starts with you and me. Being mindful when selecting the amount of food that you get is the most robust method of creating benefit for the environment.