Wilder Dillingham of AYEA on the first day of the composting program with Juneau Composts! at Juneau-Douglas High School:Yadaa.at Kalé. (Courtesy Photo / Lauren Cusimano)

Wilder Dillingham of AYEA on the first day of the composting program with Juneau Composts! at Juneau-Douglas High School:Yadaa.at Kalé. (Courtesy Photo / Lauren Cusimano)

Opinion: AYEA and Juneau Composts! are a dream team

Look for AYEA students standing by Juneau Composts! bins in the commons…

  • By Hannah Brennell and Wilder Dillingham
  • Thursday, March 2, 2023 2:36pm
  • Opinion

We, the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action students at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, are excited to share that we received an Alaska Conservation Foundation Youth Mini-Grant.

With these funds, AYEA students will be working with Lisa Daugherty of Juneau Composts! to start a composting program at JDHS from now until the end of the school year. We’ll also devote another portion of the grant to purchase two large recycle bins, which we plan to strategically place in the cafeteria and commons areas.

This has been a long time coming. When we returned to campus after winter break, we learned we had been awarded a small grant from ACF to do a couple-month test run of a composting service. We had been working to identify a few key topics that we were hoping to work on this school year. Doing something about food waste and landfill diversion at our school is high on that list. Why? “Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up about 30 percent of what we throw away and should be composted instead,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.”

We got right to work learning the basics about composting from Lisa, as well as tips and tricks to make sure this program is successful. We also got the word out to fellow students that a composting program was starting at the end of February. We’ve used everything from posters around the school to creating and airing a short PSA announcement.

The AYEA team will also be taking turns during the lunch hour for the first two weeks of the program to oversee the clearly marked Juneau Composts! bins and help fellow JDHS students in identifying what goes in the trash versus recycling versus what can be composted. We also made helpful signs with visuals of actual food and packaging that is served at our cafeteria to permanently display at all bin stations.

“I am super excited that AYEA has picked composting as an action item for their group, their school, and their community,” Lisa says. “What we learn from this pilot will help us integrate composting in all of Juneau’s schools.”

Although AYEA is extremely grateful for the ACF award, this is just a small grant to help see if composting is possible at JDHS. With the help of Juneau Composts!, AYEA will have access to the volume and weight of everything the school composts over the next couple of months. We will then be able to take this program to possibly the school board or PTA and ask for further funding to run a composting program at JDHS into the future.

If you are a JDHS student or have a JDHS student and are reading this, please look for AYEA students standing by Juneau Composts! bins in the commons for the next two weeks. We’ll be ready to help with the proper sorting of food waste — what’s good to compost, and what can go to the landfill — and talk about our collaboration with Juneau Composts!

• Hannah Brennell and Wilder Dillingham of Juneau are the president and vice president of the Juneau Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA), respectively, and students at Juneau Douglas High School. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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