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Grant, Environment Club help reduce carbon footprint 

Environment Club President Stellah Marienthal-Legendre outside the library with a composting binThanks to a grant from the Ascienzo Family Foundation and the work of Red Hook High School’s Environment Club, the school’s overall carbon footprint will be lowered and less waste generated. 

Club President Stellah Marienthal-Legendre, a senior, applied for and received a grant that allows the club to collect solid food waste from the school and have it transported to the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) where it will be turned into compost. 

Before applying for the grant, Marienthal-Legendre researched the matter and learned from custodial staff that up to 50 percent of the trash they collect is food waste. Furthermore, according to Food Services Director Larry Anthony, about 10-15 pounds of food waste is generated each day during kitchen prep. 

“We want students to understand that there are significant carbon and methane emissions from this when thrown in the trash,” Marienthal-Legendre said. 

The program allows for the collection of meat, bones, dairy, egg shells, vegetables and more. 

According to program partner, The O Zone, every 100 pounds of food waste sends 8.3 pounds of methane into the atmosphere.

Club members (of which there are 10 active members and about 30 semi-active members) placed bins at six stations around the school: the senior lounge, library, gym, science wing, lobby, cafeteria and kitchen. All have signage encouraging students and staff to put their food waste in them. Each day after lunch, several students go around and collect the waste from the small bins, replace the compostable bags, and deposit the waste collected in larger bins located outside the cafeteria area.

Weekly, a representative from The O Zone comes around to collect the filled bins, replace them, and haul the waste to the agency. 

Composting dos and don'ts

Marienthal-Legendre is passionate about the subject and spends her entire lunch period talking to students about the importance of the program. 

“Environmental conservation is important. We live in a beautiful place and I want to maintain what we have,” she said. 

Red Hook High School has 600-700 people who produce waste each day. “Every time you throw something away, think about where it is going. By doing this, we can offset some of the greenhouse gas emissions we are producing. We are all involved in the climate movement, even if you are not.” 

The larger composting bins outside the cafeteria.

Another benefit of the program is that each spring, the agency makes compost available to those who bring waste for composting so it will be able to be used in the school’s garden and to grow plants on the property, she said. 

The Environment Club is working with the Garden Club to bring the composting program on-site, something already being done at Mill Road, which has a large garden. 

Grant money covers the bins and bin collection by The O Zone through June 2024. The club uses its own money from fundraising to pay for the bags and other miscellaneous expenses. 

Marienthal-Legendre said she appreciates all the staff support she has received.