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All-School Harvest Lunch grown from used Paper Towels!

Halloween was a BLAST at Salt Spring Elementary. That moment after eating school-garden-grown Pumpkin Soup & Herbed Biscuits with Bicycle-Blender smoothies, when the DJ Gnomes announced the Thriller dance contest was pure magic. It's all thanks to used paper towels, blood meal, haybales and horse manure, and a CRD Rethink Waste Grant.

Ingredients for the lunch that served over 250, were grown, harvested, prepared and served by students from kindergarten through seventh grade. Lots of kids came back for thirds and one child had 24 dixie cups of pedal-powered, apple-blackberry-banana smoothie.

Step 1: A Garbage Audit

Students found that each classrooms at SSE produced a 30-gallon garbage bag of used paper towels each week through pre-meal handwashing.

Step 2: Reduce Waste

Some classes opted for recycled-content cloth hand-towels, funded by the Jane Goodall APE Foundation. Each student has their own washcloth, which is hung from their desk with a magnetic hook, and teachers take them home and wash them each week.

Step 3: Compost

Other classes collected the paper towels in special bins and brought them to the school garden compost bins at the end of each day.

Step 4: Grow Food

The school garden compost bins were overflowing and our carbon-nitrogen balance was heavy on paper towels! We decided to build haybale terraces and backload them with paper towels, sprinkled with blood meal, then covered with autumn leaves and horse manure. We let this layer cake bake over the winter months. In Spring, we planted them with pumpkin and sunflower seedlings. Watered by a soaker hose on an automatic timer, the sunflowers floomed and fed pollinators and birds, while the squash vines covered the whole hillside.

Step 5: Make Pumpkin Soup!

When students returned to school in September, they found all colours of ripening squash, along with thriving perennials like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. As part of garden class activities, they harvested squash, scooped out seeds, roasted it, chopped many other veggies, and helped make giant pots of delicious pumpkin soup.

Others finely cut fresh herbs and baked herbed biscuits to go alongside. The ECO Club set up bicycle blenders and created recipes for Oat Milk-Banana-Chai and Blackberry-Apple smoothies.

Step 6: All-School Halloween Party!

Families were invited and classes helped decorate, set up, and serve a great lunch for all! DJ Gnomes brought the spooky beats, and all the waste was composted again--back into the garden to grow the next great lunch.

This project was made possible by CRD Rethink Waste Grant, Island Savings Community Foundation, private donors, and many volunteers and students!

p.s. We also tried to launch a pilot school compost pick-up program with Laurie's Garbage, but communications hurdles, teacher turnover, and willpower was not there. So, we'll stick with pumpkins and haybales for now.

p.p.s. Photos by Kari Spiers & Robin Jenkinson.


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