Monday, April 6, 2009

Brooklyn Compost Project Is Finalist in 'Green Heroes' Contest

Out of submissions sent in from across the country, a small Brooklyn program based out of P.S. 146 — The Brooklyn New School — is one of ten finalists in the “Green Heroes” grant program given by the Clorox Company.

Clorox, which makes a line of natural cleaners called Green Works, has offered a $10,000 grant to the five winners of the competition, to be determined by online voting at Anyone can vote on the web site, as many times as they want.

The Brooklyn program, “Feed a Worm, Not a Landfill” was conceived by Matthew Sheehan, a former fourth-grade teacher at The Brooklyn New School and a Master Composter, certified by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Sheehan said that currently there are 15 worm composting bins throughout the school maintained by several teachers. However, this only allows the school to compost between 40 and 50 percent of its food waste. Sheehan’s goal is to compost 100 percent of the waste.

His vision for this large-scale composting is a series of Vermiculture Compost Systems (VCS), which will hold 80 pounds of worms. “The worms can eat about half their weight in one day,” he said. The school’s food waste will be put in a different bin for every day of the week, allowing it time to start composting before more food waste is added.

Compost generated from these bins will serve two purposes: it will be added to the school’s garden, and it will be bagged and sold to raise money for the school, said Sheehan.

Also included in the project proposal is a plan for a “shredder house” said Sheehan. Schools in general produce a lot of paper, and all the paper from P.S. 146 will be shredded and added to the worm bins as the carbon component, aiding in composting.

Sheehan, while dedicated to the school as a former teacher and the parent of a kindergartner, was hopeful that “Feed a Worm, Not a Landfill” will help the surrounding communities and be an example for other schools.

“We want to bring it to the wider community,” he said, explaining that, having volunteered at Added Value in Red hook, he hopes to partner with them during the project as well.

“This is something that could really benefit the city, no doubt,” Sheehan said of his program, especially in light of recent cuts of composting programs citywide. “If the city can’t do it we can do it ourselves.”

And with the right tools, anyone can do it, he says — “[my son] has his own worm bin at home.”

Photo courtesy of Green Works

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