Co-founder of West Maui Green Cycle Gretchen Losano, Grow Some Good, and Lahaina Intermediate School have created a new pilot program to reduce waste on campus. The new Zero Waste Program grew out of a letter Losano wrote to Grow Some Good about a garden coordinator position. In the letter, Losano proposed a different option for the garden coordinator position via mentorship with the Windward Zero Waste School Hui, a school food waste composting program started by Mindy Jaffee on O‘ahu.
“I am bringing the method to Maui and I can envision the most perfect partnership with your incredible program,” said Losano said in her letter. The school garden at Lahaina Intermediate School had totally overgrown during the summer, and Grow Some Good’s budget for hiring a school garden coordinator for one day a week was a tough match for a space that needed lots of work to make it safe for classes to begin, said a GSG spokesperson.
“On Gretchen’s first visit to the school campus, our focus quickly shifted from rebuilding a garden to zero waste and soil building,” said Kathy Becklin, GSG executive director. In mid-November, Losano ran an audit to see how much waste the cafeteria was producing. “What I saw was so extensive, I couldn’t stand to see it go to the landfill,” Losano said. She built her first compost piles on campus that day.
Instead of throwing everything away in trash bins, students now sort drinks, food, plastics, cardboard trays, unused or unopened items, and non-recyclable trash. Food waste is then carried in buckets to the Zero Waste station on campus, where it is converted into compost. During the school’s three lunch periods, Losano and student helpers are collecting and diverting 150 to 200 pounds of food waste per day.
“When students are first-hand witnesses and participate in diverting massive amounts of waste from the landfill, they understand that they are part of something much bigger,” Losano said.
After school, Losano and her daughter, Kaliko, separate and measure single-use plastic waste, such as plastic utensils and fruit cups, filling a 13-gallon bag every day. She’s saving the overstuffed plastic bags to give students, parents, and community leaders a visual demonstration of the importance of reducing single-use plastics on Maui.
“When you look at the scope of this issue on Maui and the system that needs to be built to divert waste islandwide, it can seem overwhelming.” Becklin said. “Students at Lahaina Intermediate are starting by addressing what’s right in front of them and modeling a path to better solutions for waste reduction on Maui.”
Several other schools have expressed interest in the Zero Waste Program; however, growing outreach at this stage requires additional funding to cover basic supplies, such as hand carts, buckets, tarps, gloves, and other compositing equipment. Funding also supports staff training and labor. On average, it takes three to four hours a day to oversee collection and processing of food waste from the cafeteria.
Grow Some Good is $10,000 short of its funding goal to complete the 2019/20 Zero Waste Program pilot. Those interested in donating can visit the Grow Some Good website Growsomegood.org/donate.
Since 2008, Losano has been involved in statewide advocacy initiatives to help Hawai‘i legislators and students to understand the consequences of using styrofoam and plastic on the environment.
“The products are still out there, and single-use plastics are out of control. None of it is being recycled,” Losano said. “Diverting waste from the landfill isn’t just a good thing to do. It’s the only way we’re going to survive.”
Photo courtesy Grow Some Good