November 23, 2014

CVU kicks off compost collection

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By Kim Howard
Observer staff

When students at Champlain Valley Union High School laid out and sorted through a day’s worth of school trash last fall, some of them were surprised by what they found.

The total weight of what was headed to a landfill: 533 pounds. What should have been heading to a landfill: 191 pounds.

“It was surprising for us,” said CVU High School senior Mackenzie Pierson, president of the school’s environmental club.

Roughly 113 pounds of recycling – such as milk and water bottles – had gone into the trash. Food scraps, paper napkins and other materials that could be composted weighed in at 229 pounds.

“We didn’t expect to get that much compost,” Pierson said. “We figured out the school was wasting a lot of money by having all this heavy compost and recycling go into the trash.”

Starting this spring, students in the Environmental Club, advised by teacher Dave Ely, and students enrolled in Sarah Strack’s environmental science course have put a dent in the waste sent to the landfill weekly with the start of a student-run composting program.

Each day, students bring two clean 64-gallon garbage bins into the kitchen and cafeteria, and then remove them after lunch periods. Once a week, the compost is picked up by a commercial hauler and taken to the Intervale to be composted.

Though conceptually it’s a good idea to compost on site, CVU junior Kayla Gatos said, it simply isn’t practical.

“It would have been a big deal to compost on site,” said Gatos, who will be the Environmental Club president next year. “It grosses people out that all of our food would be decomposing at school.”

What goes out does come back, so to speak. Last week, a delivery of Intervale compost arrived for CVU’s vegetable garden. Students will begin planting the garden this week with foods that will end up in their cafeteria offerings in the fall.

“For us it’s really about the sustainability, about how you can take your waste and turn it into something you can use every day,” Strack said.

Strack estimates as little as 20 gallons of compost were collected daily in the early days of the program, but that now up to 32 gallons are being diverted daily from the trash dumpster. That’s roughly 25 to 40 percent of the 76.5 gallons of compost-able material students found on Trash on the Lawn Day.

The program costs about $240 a month for the hauler – a cost that is being paid for by student fundraising, including a grant from the Friends of CVU. Strack said that while some students are enthused about the idea of getting the program built into the school budget, at this time it’s a long-term goal. Custodial staff members already have their hands full, Gatos said, so that’s why students are taking the lead.

Both Pierson and Gatos said they’re pleased with the progress made so far.

“For the most part people are doing a really good job,” Pierson said. “I still see kids going to the garbage and just dumping things in unconsciously…. We still could do more to tell people why we’re doing this.”

At the start of the program, students handed out a sticker to their peers each time they composted; the homeroom advisory group with the most stickers won an ice cream party.

Pierson and Gatos also are in agreement that they hope the wider community takes away a message from the school’s program.

“If CVU can start it and it’s student run, then obviously a family can start composting; you just need a bin,” Gatos said. “It’s not that hard, and I think people think it’s hard.”

For Gatos, environmental change is about small steps.

“If there can be such a negative change if everybody is doing such negative things,” she said, “then there can be a positive change if everybody does a positive thing.
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Black Hawk to land in Williston

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By Kim Howard
Observer staff

When a UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter flies into Williston next Wednesday and lands behind Williston Central School, there should be no need for alarm.

Vermont Army National Guard Cpt. Doran Metzger (a relative of Central School teacher Ann Steinmuller) and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Keith Roy (a Williston dad and Williston School Board member) will bring the chopper to school as part of a unit of study on the Middle East.

The chopper is part of the MEDEVAC unit, what Roy said is “the most deployed unit in the state of Vermont.” Roy served in Iraq for 12 months last year transporting wounded soldiers to the hospital.

Wednesday’s school presentation will give Roy and Metzger the chance to practice landing the chopper in a confined area and to give students in Verve House, about 80 students, a tour of the cockpit and expand their understanding of Iraq by hearing about their experiences.

“Obviously we want to stay on the positive side, and stress the fact that the MEDEVAC unit is not a combat unit,” Roy said. “Our business is lifesaving.”

Teacher Ann Steinmuller got the idea of asking if the chopper team could come when she heard Metzger was visiting her niece’s school. Students there had kept in touch with Metzger by mail when he served in Iraq.

Each year Verve teachers organize a two-week interdisciplinary unit that helps students learn more in-depth about a certain area. Last year students studied Russia. Focusing on the Middle East, Steinmuller said, seemed like an obvious choice this year.

“We just felt there is so much going on in that area,” she said. “Kids just didn’t have a good understanding of the Middle East and why we’re in the situation we are in there, too.”

In the first week of study, students selected three of six seminars to attend on topics including religion, history, art and culture, women’s issues, and terrorism and security. In the second week, students chose one area on which to focus, research and complete a project.

Eighth graders Corinne Vien, Lauren Meunier and Kaya Yurieff researched two famous women of Middle Eastern descent and created podcasts – downloadable computer presentations with voiceovers – about what they learned. After typing “famous women in Middle East” into a Web search engine, Corinne said, they picked the two that seemed most interesting: Queen Noor of Jordan and Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian American, who was the first woman to take an independent space flight.

Lauren said she is glad she learned more about women’s lives in the Middle East.

“I’m lucky, when I’m older I can divorce and pick who I want to be married to,” she said. “Women in the Middle East don’t get that right.”

Sixth grader Becca Janney and seventh grader Brittany Mount created a model of a bunker in which al-Qaeda members might live, based on photographs sent to her by her father who is sometimes sent overseas with the military.

Learning more about the region’s history and conflicts in areas other than Iraq helped Becca broaden her understanding, she said.

“I understand the Middle East a bit more for what it really is and I don’t think everybody is a blood thirsty tyrant trying to kill me and my fellow country people,” Becca said.

Cody Fischer, a sixth grader, is excited about the helicopter lesson next week since “people who’ve been all over the place” will accompany it.

“We’ve never had any big thing come to our school but this is going to be exciting for all the kids,” he said.

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Farmers

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Town approves credit union location

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The Development Review Board last week approved a farmers’ market operated by New England Federal Credit Union.

The market will operate in a field next to the Harvest Lane financial institution from June 27 through Oct. 13, said Cindy Morgan, marketing manager for NEFCU. It will be open Wednesdays from 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m.

Morgan said she hopes to recruit 20 to 25 vendors. Offerings will include produce, meat, fresh-cut flowers, maple syrup, berries and ready-to-eat food. Some of the produce will come from certified organic growers.

The emphasis will be on agricultural products, she said. The market will be anchored by three large growers, but Morgan said she did not know their names.

The Development Review Board’s approval of the site plan application came with little debate, said John Adams, Williston’s development review planner. The only issue was the signage, he said, as the board refused to permit the off-premise sign the credit union had sought.

The market instead will be advertised with an A-frame sign at the site and a banner on the credit union, Morgan said. Other marketing efforts could include newspaper advertisements and a link on the credit union’s Web site, www.nefcu.com.

While the credit union lines up vendors, Williston resident Christina Mead is also making plans for a farmers’ market about two miles away.

The market will be located on the town green next to Dorothy Alling Library along U.S. 2. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday from July 7 through Oct. 13, Mead said.

She said she is still awaiting final word from about 20 people who have expressed an interest in the market. Those who have signed up include vendors selling arts and crafts, maple syrup, soap, baked goods and berries. All products will be grown or produced in Vermont.

In coming days, Mead said she will launch a Web site, www.willistonfarmersmarket.com that will provide information about the market.

As of Friday, Mead still needed a peddler’s permit. Williston Zoning Administrator D.K. Johnston said the permit will be reviewed by planning staff, not the Development Review Board.

Asked why Mead’s market did not need the same type of permit as the credit union, Johnston said the credit union operation was on “virgin land” that had never before been used. In contrast, the town green has for years hosted concerts and other events.

The Williston Selectboard had previously approved use of the town-owned green for the market. Under state law, development review boards operate independently of selectboards.

“I just don’t want to be put in the position of contradicting what the Selectboard said,” Johnston said.

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