by Lisa Tome
While some teams may stop for fast food on the way back from a game or match, the athletes at West Nottingham Academy wait and eat at school.
The students there also drink from reusable water bottles, don't bring plastic store bags on campus, and compost scraps at every meal.
"Going green" is more than a buzzword among the 130 students at WNA, it's a way of life.
"We have students from nine states and 21 countries. It's a diverse population," ex- plained Dr. Virginia Kennedy, who chairs the English department and directs the school's Sustainability Program. There are numerous practices in place at the school which are designed to make students aware of their impact on the environment.
Each year, about seven tons of food waste are generated at the school which serves three meals per day, seven days per week. There are compost buckets in the cafeteria. Through a unique agriculture based local program, that waste turns into milk and ice cream. It's all documented on a chart hanging in Foutz Dining Hall where meals are served. The compost collected daily is then mixed with cow manure at Kilby Farm, a stone's throw from campus. The mixture is then placed in the farm's methane digester machine, bacteria consumes the mixture and produces methane gas.
The methane powers the farm's milking plant. The school then receives credit towards purchases of milk and ice cream.
The farm also provides students with an outdoor classroom and a place to learn about agriculture.
Dr. Kennedy said the composting program started at WNA and is now in its third year. The school is serving as a template for others due to the farm to table aspect, the reduction of waste going to the landfill, and the educational opportunities afforded to students.
She also said the composting promotes civic responsibility and builds the school community because everyone takes a turn at handling the compost. The compost barrels are dumped and washed by students on a rotating basis.
Dr. Kennedy said the impact has been global. Students at the school come from five of the seven continents. What they learn is taken back to their home with them. "Germany is all about it (composting). For our Chinese students, it's foreign to them. Malco Dilesta, 17, is a second year student who hails from Djibouti, Africa. He said it's not a common practice in his home but he plans to initiate the practice of composting.
Recycling and using less has gone beyond composting for students.
Bergeline Lysaire, is a senior at WNA and comes from New Jersey. "I really like composting. I recycle at home but now this is a conscious effort. Composting is a pain and we don't have it in New Jersey. It's really a whole community effort," said Lysaire.
Dillon Berry, a WNA day student from Elkton, said he's taken the conservation efforts to his family's home. He said his family has reduced it's consumption and has focused on conservation. Max Scheiner of Newark, Delaware said he used to take a daily vitamin and throw the plastic bag away. Now, he's used the same bag for a year.
Sasha Skulsky is assistant head of school for student life. She said the students have adopted conservation as a way of life. They bring reusable bags when shopping, drink from reusable bottles, don't eat fast food often because of the packaging, and more. "The kids are holding each other accountable," she said.
"You don't have to hit them over the head and force it. It's them taking an interest in their future, taking care of themselves," said Dr. Kennedy.
In the spring of 2018, the school received the Sustainable School designation. That is a step above the more common Green School designation.