IRMO, S.C. — As a magnet school for environmental sciences, Dutch Fork Elementary is taking huge strides towards saving the planet. 

As an Academy of Environmental Science, Dutch Fork Elementary school teaches its students the curriculum through the lens of environmental science, especially with their food waste and compost program.

Amy Umberger is the resident scientist at Dutch Fork Elementary. She helps teachers and students with environmental projects at the school. 

“At Dutch Fork Elementary Academy of Environmental Sciences, we focus a lot on sustainability and conservation and one of the ways we do that is through composting," Umberger tells us. 

Through a partnership with Richland County, SMART recycling and ReSoil, food waste is collected at the school every day. Its then taken to the ReSoil commercial compost facility where its turned into compost. The school then buys it back at wholesale prices to replenish their gardens and farms — and this year they’re selling it district-wide.

They started this program about three and a half years ago, and so far they have diverted over 100 tons of food waste, which is about 200,000 pounds of food waste that they have put into better use.

Umberger explains to us why they started this in the first place, “Because we generate so much food waste in our cafeteria- not that our kids are these terribly wasteful kids- but it doesn’t have anywhere to go, all this paper and all this scrap food is just sitting there collecting and it can be used for something so much better.”

Bryce Wimbur is a Landfill Bucket Helper who helps make sure everything this sorted correctly.

“We pass out buckets, like we’ll go up and down the tables and we’ll collect the landfill," Bryce explained. "Compost is mainly just our milk cartons and the paper products and landfill is... sometimes kind of hard to know what’s landfill and what’s recycle but landfill is mainly the light plastics and recycle is mainly the hard plastic.”

Umberger told us that she sees these students subconsciously picking up litter on field trips and truly caring about the environment. 

“For them to start caring about where things go and for them fussing at their parents, that’s really making a difference," Umberger shares. "When parents are coming to me and telling me ‘now I do this because of what you guys are doing here’ that is when it really hits home for me.”

These kids will be selling bags of compost April 22-26 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the school. Bags are $10, and 50 percent of the money raised goes back into environmental studies for the students.

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