ILSR Guide to Composting Onsite at Schools

Date: 15 Oct 2018 | posted in: Composting | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

ILSR prepared this Guide to Composting Onsite at Schools to introduce the basics of onsite composting at K-12 schools that have been equipped with 2- and 3-bin composting systems. These systems work well for schools with gardens. Learn why composting is important, the basic ingredients needed to produce good compost, steps to get started, and how to troubleshoot should problems arise. ILSR advocates for a diverse and distributed infrastructure for food waste recovery and composting. Schools can be the foundation for locally based composting, helping to build the culture of composting know-how and practice within a community.

Click here to download PDF for guide.

The 24-page guide is divided into six sections:

  • What & Why Compost:  What is compost and composting? Why should we compost?
  • Composting Basics: Learn what materials to compost and the importance of air, water, and size.
  • 5 Steps to Get Started: Clarify team and method, secure tools, collect ingredients, make a recipe, build a pile.
  • Health & Safety Considerations: Practice good hygiene and protect against airborne fungi.
  • Troubleshooting: Odors? Nothing happening? Learn tips for dealing with challenges.
  • Using Finished Compost: Compost can be incorporated into garden planting beds or used as a mulch.

ILSR is working on a companion report, The ABCs of Composting Onsite at K-12 Schools. If you are composting onsite at your school (whether a simple worm bin in a classroom or a $10,000 in-vessel system) and would like to be included in our report, please email us at

ILSR Related Resources and Links

Fighting Food Waste and Employing Youth in Baltimore (Aug. 2018)
ILSR Trains Teen Leaders on the Basics of Composting (July 2018)
ILSR Launches Composting Demonstration Site in Maryland High School (March 2018)
NSR School Composting Project Spotlight: Elsie Whitlow Stokes Public Charter School, DC (Sept. 2015)
Growing Local Fertility: A Guide to Community Composting (April 2014)

Other School Guides

Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation: Universal Recycling for Schools
Connecticut Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection: School Composting – A Manual for Connecticut Schools
Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection: 10 Steps to Starting a Successful School Composting Operation
Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District: Do the Rot Thing – A Teacher’s Guide to Compost Activities
NC State Extension: Vermicomposting for Schools
Western Australia Waste Authority: Composting at School
Highfields Center for Composting (VT) (now defunct): On‐Site Composting for Schools Planning and Implementing a Program for Success
Devon Community Composting Network (UK): Step-by-step guide to setting up a composting system at school
Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NE USA): On-Site Composting
Lane County (OR): On Site Composting at Schools

Curricula on Soil and/or Compost

The Soil Story Curriculum by Kiss the Ground
Life Lab Composting Lessons and Video Resources
Rhonda Sherman’s Vermicomposting: A 5th Grade School Enrichment Curriculum
Alameda County (CA): StopWaste Curriculum and Videos
The Soil Science Society of America: K-12 Soil Science Teacher Resources
Vermont Dept. Environmental Conservation: School Composting – An Introduction (K-5 Teacher’s Guide)
Vermont Dept. Environmental Conservation: School Composting – An Introduction (6-12 Teacher’s Guide)

School Programs (Sample!)

Chittenden Solid Waste District (VT): Outreach & Education, School Programs & Activities
DC Public Schools: Food & Garden Waste – Schools
Alameda County (CA): Stop Waste at School
Seven Generations Ahead (IL): Zero Waste Schools
Eco-Cycle (CO): Green Star Schools® Program
Chicago Public Schools: Commercial Composting & Recycling Program and Composting in Chicago Public Schools: A Go-Green Guide
Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection: Recycling & Composting for Kids, Teachers & Schools
Seattle Public Schools (WA): Composting & Recycling
Santa Cruz County (CA): School Composting
Portland Public Schools (ME): Cafeteria Recycling/Composting
Charleston County School District (SC): Composting Program
Greenwich Public Schools (CT): Green Schools & Composting – Eastern Middle School


US Composting Council website on resources for Composting for Teachers and Students
Cornell Waste Management Institute: Composting in Schools website
BioCycle: Building Community Composting In Bushwick, Brooklyn (March/April 2017)
BioCycle: K-12 School Food Recovery Roadmap (March/April 2018)
World Wildlife Fund: Food Waste Warrior Toolkit
Public Health Law Center: Reducing Food Waste in Out-of-School Time – Best Practices
U.S. EPA: A Guide to Conducting Student Food Waste Audits – A Resource for Schools
Light and Cozy: Making Composting Understandable For Kids [A Complete Guide]


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Brenda Platt

Brenda Platt directs ILSR's Composting for Community project.