Mia Moore checked the sign about food waste composting before tossing organic leftovers into a bright yellow trash bin at Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves.
A freshman, Mia was one of the first students to take part in the composting effort set up at the school in conjunction with St. Louis Composting. Nerinx is one of the schools to join in the effort with restaurants, food manufacturers and service providers to slow the stream of ozone-depleting organic waste buried at landfills. St. Louis Composting collects organic material from the food outlets and for several months manages moisture, nitrogen, oxygen and temperature levels to create ideal conditions for the microbial activity that transforms it into nutrient-rich compost.
Nerinx Hall and its environmental Planet Patrol Club and Peace and Justice Club are among the collaborators with Franciscans for Earth in sponsoring the upcoming “Sacred Earth: Our Call to Action” conference on implementing Pope Francis’ environmental message in his encyclical “Laudato Si’” (“On Care for Our Common Home”). Moore said it’s important to find a better use for food waste and other waste “if you want the earth to continue on. We have to start taking care of the earth.”
Mary Clare Muehlemann, a junior, is president of the Planet Patrol Club. She noted that the Sisters of Loretto, sponsors of Nerinx, are dedicated to caring for the earth. Among the other recent activities of the club are “waste-free Wednesdays” and collecting Expo markers and other plastic pens and markers for recycling.
“This is our future, and if we don’t take care of the earth, other generations” will be left with a tough task, Mary Clare said.
The moderator of Planet Patrol, Sylviane Bonino, said the composting education effort shows the extent of the need and how to help. “Everything we do impacts the earth,” she said.
Sara Koziatek, a St. Clare of Assisi parishioner and graduate of Incarnate Word Academy, represented St. Louis Composting at the kickoff of composting at Nerinx. About 80 schools participate in composting through her company, Koziatek said. “It’s so important to be composting food scraps. It’s beneficial for our community, our environment and our planet. They may not think just throwing their pizza slice or half-eaten sandwich in the bin makes a difference, but it all adds up,” she said.
The end result, compost, “is like health food for the soil,” Koziatek said.
Schools are some of the largest waste-producers, she added. When students learn about new uses for waste, it impacts them and they spread the message, she added.
Molly Grumich, principal of Nerinx, said incorporating composting into the other recycling efforts “takes us to the next level of our mission to be good stewards of the earth.”
Nerinx is looking to qualify as a Green Ribbon School through the U.S. Department of Education for its environmental efforts, Grumich said. Saint Louis University High School is among few schools in Missouri that have attained the designation.
Nicole Heerlein, Franciscans for Earth director, said organizers of the March 9 conference “really wanted to get the youth involved, the next generation. They’re inheriting some very big problems, unfortunately, and they’re aware of that. There’s the question of how do you solve those problems?”
The focus of the conference is on the papal encyclical on the environment and how it relates to Catholics’ faith. “It’s an opportunity to talk with each other on how we can make the earth better for all of us,” Heerlein said.
>> Friends of the environment
Several parishes in the archdiocese are reducing the environmental impact of their fish fries, other events and school lunches.
Redeemer Parish in Webster Groves, for example, has gone further than
simply refusing to use Styrofoam for their school lunches and annual
fish fry by committing to a low-waste fish fry, ensuring that very
little winds up in a landfill.
In an ideal situation, all plates,
cutlery and cups are reusable. Holy Redeemer does not have the space to
store and clean reusable supplies, so it uses compostable and recyclable
Several schools in the archdiocese have participated
in the Green Schools Quest from the U.S. Green Building Council —
Missouri Gateway Chapter. Winners in 2017-18 included St. Joseph’s
Academy in the high school category and Saint Louis University High
School for innovation.
>> Compost 101
For a parish that wants to go green, it
first needs to make certain it’s being thorough with simple recycling,
in terms of paper, plastic, cans and bottles. Once those basics are
covered, the next step is commercial composting. School cafeterias and
parish events such as fish fries and dinner auctions generate a huge
amount of food waste, better served for commercial composting than
landfills. Specific compostable dinnerware, trays, cutlery and cups are
an environmentally friendly option as opposed to environmentally
unfriendly polystyrene foam containers.
In addition, there are several resources to explore:
• Missouri Botanical Garden www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/sustainability
• Green Dining Alliance www.greendiningalliance.org
• U.S. Green Building Council www.usgbc.org
• St. Louis Composting www.stlcompost.com
>> Sacred Earth: Our Call to Action
WHEN: Saturday, March 9, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Registration begins at 9 a.m.
WHERE: Nerinx Hall High School, 530 E Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves
Ed Biersmith, a climate ambassador with the Catholic Coalition on
Climate Change. He’ll tell why Catholics are called to care about
climate change, its impact on the poor, and Catholic teachings on
climate change and environmental issues.
Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kirkwood; Oblate
Ecological Initiative in Godfrey, Ill.; Jamie Hasemeier, Holy Redeemer
Parish in Webster Groves; Mark Etling of St. Nicholas Parish in
O’Fallon, Ill.; and Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves.
COST: Adults, $25, and students, $15; includes a light breakfast and lunch.
TO REGISTER: Visit the events tab at www.fsolph.org.