Three large-scale composters were installed this summer at Lake Placid Central School, The Wild Center, and Hermon Dekalb Central School (just outside the Adirondack Park), allowing local communities to turn food waste into rich organic material using locally designed and manufactured composting systems.
A model composter that was built near the High Peaks at North Country School Camp Treetops (NCS/CTT) in 2017 has now been replicated at the three additional institutions, allowing schools and communities to process up to 200 pounds of organic matter each day, turning waste into compost in about a month’s time.
The 2017 pilot project was funded through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Cleaner Greener Communities program, a four-year $100 million initiative aimed at moving New York communities toward a more environmentally sustainable future. The program encourages communities to create public-private partnerships and develop regional sustainable growth strategies in areas such as emission control, energy efficiency, renewable energy, low-carbon transportation and other carbon reductions. The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) secured NYSERDA funding for the systems and worked with NCS/CTT and site hosts to ensure the project met its goals and requirements.
In two years, NCS/CTT has processed over 116,000 pounds of organic material, composed mostly of food scraps, into 53 cubic yards of high-quality compost that is then used in the school’s vegetable gardens.
ANCA secured additional funding from NYSERDA in the fall of 2018 to construct three more composting units in the region. The systems are housed in retrofitted 40-foot shipping containers, which were purchased in part with funds from the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse & Recycling (NYSAR³) Green Schools Grant Program.
The Wild Center is partnering with the Tupper Lake School District to educate the public about composting processes and benefits. Tupper Lake School and The Wild Center will provide food scraps and integrate the composter into its “New Path Tour” which highlights the Center’s sustainability initiatives.
Lake Placid High School Environmental Club students first learned about North Country’s drum composter by attending the Wild Center’s Adirondack Youth Climate Summit and have been processing school food waste at North Country’s facility for two years. They are now creating a student-run business model for collecting organic material from community members, operating their own composter and distributing the end product. The community composting business encourages students to learn about sustainability and environmental science and develop valuable business and life skills.
Hermon DeKalb Central School will include the composter in their local food program. The school’s composting system will be supported bycommunity members including an Amish farm, a local restaurant and the State University of New York (SUNY) in Canton.
Inspired by a growing interest among institutions, Greg LeClair, who partnered with Culpepper on the original design, has started a small business in Upper Jay that manufactures the composting machines.
The estimated cost of one composting machine is around $30,000, plus $10,000 for the shipping container. Culpepper estimates the system pays for itself in five to eight years due to cost savings from tipping fees and the value of finished compost. The composters offset about nine metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually — the equivalent of removing two vehicles from the road.
For more information about the composter project and how your community can implement a composting plan, contact ANCA Sustainability Project Coordinator Jennifer Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org or John Culpepper NCS/CTT Director of Facilities and Sustainability at email@example.com.
Photo of large-scale drum composter at North Country School Camp Treetops in Lake Placid provided.