Environmental Club Establishes Compost Committee at HTHS

(Secaucus, NJ––June 16, 2020) Led by senior Rishika Bandamede, High Tech’s Environmental Club has established a Compost Committee to advance sustainability efforts at the Frank J. Gargiulo campus, announced Dr. Joseph A. Giammarella, Principal at High Tech High School.

In October of 2019, Rishika Bandamede approached Ms. Cathy Yuhas, Environmental Science Academy teacher, and Chef Mario M. Rodriguez III, Food Services Coordinator, to discuss logistics of a composting project at HTHS. As the advisor of the Environmental Club, Ms. Yuhas felt that the project would work best under the umbrella of the Environmental Club. Thus established, Rishika set out to recruit a team.

The Compost Committee, headed by Ms. Bandamede, includes seniors Aleema Ali, Krystal Andrade, and Ivonne Ovalles; juniors Kareem Rhaburn, Fiona Bezhani, Kalsey Colotl, Al Sessa, and Kate Neal; sophomore Sayuri Pfeiffer; and freshmen Andrew Carpen and Linda Sanchez. Beginning in October, together with Ms. Yuhas and Chef Mario, the committee toured the HTHS kitchen, assessed initial levels of food waste, prepared for a food audit, and developed a compost plan. They also built compost bins, which were generously donated by the Hudson County Improvement Authority.

In mid-March, when the committee was expecting to begin composting in earnest, the state’s health-related school closure went into effect. While Ms. Bandemede and her committee were unable to fully execute their plan during the 2019–2020 school year, the project will continue into next year and beyond. The group expects to build awareness of composting’s value at the school, with the hopes of bringing the practice into the larger community.

Environmental Club Advisor Cathy Yuhas said of the initiative, “I have always wanted to start composting at the school, so I was glad that Rishika came along motivated to figure out how we can get it done. It is a shame that we could not start the program because of the health-related building closure, but Rishika put all the pieces together for us to start in September 2020. I am really proud of all that Rishika and the Compost Committee have done for our school community and I look forward to continuing this project in September!”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, composting enriches soil, reduces emissions, lowers one’s carbon footprint. For more on how to compost at home, visit https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home. 

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