Gretchen Losano is a west side mamma on a mission to compost. Leading zero waste education at Lahaina Intermediary and Kihei Charter School, the School Food Waste Compost Program is not only great for our environment, its a hands on way to teach kids to be mindful about the trash they create and in turn take care of our planet. Choice Co Founder Emily joined Gretchen on a sunny lunch break with these incredible middle schoolers to learn more about the program.
From plate to soil
After each school meal, students scrape their uneaten food into a bucket, separate their liquids, and stack their compostables. Around the corner in the school garden, there are several compost heaps that are specially designed to house around 100 lbs of food scraps per day! A new heap is established and can be added to each week for 3-4 months.
How to compost using the 'passive aerated static system'
1. Build a foundation with mulch
2. Create an aeration layer with foraged sticks and twigs
3. Cover with more mulch
4. Pour food scraps and liquids on top
5. Add more mulch and water
6. Create aeration holes in the heap
7. Cover with a tarp
This simple system produces fantastic, nutrient rich soil for the agriculture program to use in the school gardens. Leading by example, the pilot program is looking to establish these composting systems in 4 new schools this year. There is also a push towards reusable meal trays and cutlery, made possible by installing commercial dishwashers, which will truly eliminate the majority of waste from school lunches!
“Everything relies on a system; if we don’t adjust the overall systems that are in place, what we do on a personal level will not be impactful enough to get the change we want to see,” stated Gretchen. "Shoutout to Windward Zero Waste group for sharing this practical composting technique!"
Industrial composting on Maui
While the recent ban of plastic disposable food ware on Maui is a huge environmental step, the island currently lacks a commercial composting facility to properly separate and dispose of these items. Without separation from other rubbish and proper systems to actually compost the compostables, 'compostable' containers and utensils are unfortunately not much better than regular plastics. Luckily, Gretchen Losano has been working tirelessly for the past 14 years to open a west Maui composting facility, a goal that is finally close to fruition.
Choice Health Bar is extremely proud to be the first restaurant on Maui selected to work with West Maui Green Cycle to compost PLA to-go containers. Choice will be separating PLA (polylactic acid) containers used for grab-and-go meals through our Malama Pono station at our Lahaina health bar. Those items will be transported to West Maui Green Cycle to be mixed with organic compost, effectively breaking down into soil that can be recycled to grow local produce. Choice can then purchase that produce from local farmers and prepare fresh, plant-based meals for our customers. What a beautiful system!
For more information on the School Food Waste Program or Maui's first commercial composting facility, contact firstname.lastname@example.org