Manhattan Country School is one of the newest participants in the City of New York’s school compost program. A new brown compost bin has been added to the MCS kitchen and will serve as the school’s main compost receptacle. Each day, smaller compost containers will be delivered to classrooms with lunch and snack and returned to the kitchen with each meal. Every afternoon, the food scraps are picked up, free of charge, by the city.
Why does MCS compost? Can’t you just put everything in the garbage?
MCS is committed to ensuring the sustainability of our local and global environment through curriculum and practice. When food scraps from our snacks and lunches are sent to a landfill (the destination for items tossed in the trash), they decompose anaerobically (without access to oxygen). This produces large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that, over a five-year period, can trap 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Composting completes the natural cycle of returning nutrients to the soil, just as leaves and fallen trees would return nutrients to the soil in a forest.
Composting has long been a practice at the MCS Farm for sorting food waste between scraps for the pigs and compostables. In the city, MCS started composting a small part of its food waste in a compost tumbler on the rooftop garden many years ago. For a little while, individual teachers also volunteered to transport apple cores from Friday snacks to the Union Square Farmers Market. A few years ago, the school made a financial commitment to pay for compost pick up from a private service.
Last year, New York City expanded its school food compost program to include independent schools located on existing routes, which means MCS can now participate in the program. Our new location on West 85th Street is also eligible for city pick up, which means we can continue our composting efforts after our move this summer.
—Flannery Denny, seventh and eighth grade math teacher and MCS sustainability curriculum project coordinator, contributed to this article.