Written by Deb Groebner, Southern Coordinator
On March 4th, 42 students and teachers from Youth Eco Solutions (YES!) teams at Sleepy Eye High School, St. Mary’s Catholic School, and Springfield High School participated in the Organics Recycling and Waste Reduction Workshop in Mankato. This workshop explored systems for keeping food waste and other compostable materials out of landfills and making connections to water quality and climate change.
“Knowledge alone is not enough to solve today’s environmental challenges,” said Deb Groebner, YES! Coordinator for southern Minnesota. “At YES! workshops, students learn from local experts who not only provide information but also engage them through hands-on activities.”
The workshop kicked off at Minnesota State University-Mankato with a tour of the organics recycling system led by Jamie Waterbury, General Manager of University Dining Services. After regrouping at the Blue Earth County Historical Society, students learned from Jane Dow of Mankato Area Zero Waste about the power of composting to prevent global warming by recycling carbon back into the soil and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases like methane. Dow also brought live red wiggler worms from her indoor vermicomposting bin and gave them to students interested in using worms to break down food scraps at home.
Farmers Natalie and Andy Schuette shared how they’ve partnered with Wooden Spoon to collect organic waste sorted at the restaurant to feed chickens and make compost to improve soil health. Betty Winkworth of Mankato Area Zero Waste then led students in fun activities they can use to teach younger kids in their community about organics recycling and waste.
Before boarding the bus, one of the teachers pulled Groebner aside, a gleam in her eye. “She said, ‘this [workshop] was the shot of inspiration I needed! The kids are already talking about ideas for our team’s organics recycling project,’” according to Groebner. “It was a good reminder that when it comes to sustaining environmental action, passionate role models and a supportive community are key!”
Major funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).