ILSR Trains Teen Leaders on the Basics of Composting

Date: 26 Jul 2018 | posted in: Composting | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

The Lindsey Meyer Teen Institute (LMTI) in Secaucus, New Jersey, has a team of youth this summer developing and implementing an action plan to compost food waste at a local high school. The youth are members of the Next Generation Community Leaders program supported by Partners in Prevention via a grant from New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI). The composting initiative is part of a larger project around youth leadership, the environment, and community health.

The team’s task this summer: Figure out how to collect food scraps from a local farmers’ market and other sources for composting at an in-vessel Rocket Composter at the school. Their first step: Learn the basics of hot composting, site management, and the steps to consider when designing a collection and composting operation.

To help the team with ideas and move forward with planning their project, ILSR’s lead Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders compost trainers, Brenda Platt and Linda Bilsens Brolis, provided hands-on training July 10th. The full day encompassed:

  1. Testing water infiltration in different samples of soils to demonstrate the benefits of compost-amended soil (it’s all about the soil!)
  2. Identifying different carbon-rich materials (browns) versus nitrogen-rich materials (greens) by playing a matching game
  3. Chopping food scraps to facilitate decomposition
  4. Building compost piles with different recipes and observing the differences (one group’s recipe was too dry and insufficiently dense, another group had a wet dense recipe, and the third had the just-right recipe)
  5. Testing for proper moisture level in the compost pile (need 40 to 60% moisture!)
  6. Reviewing appropriate tools and data recording (such as temperature probes and manure pitchforks)
  7. Reviewing best management practices to avoid pathogen, odor, and critter problems and to produce a high-quality compost
  8. Discussing all the steps involved in a compost project (collecting materials, outreach and marketing, who’s in charge of what task, composting, site management, troubleshooting, utilizing compost, meeting local and state regs, and more)
  9. Playing a customized bingo game to review composting facts / terminology
  10. Showing short videos to demonstrate various key points (e.g., site management, benefits of community composting, composting in winter)
  11. Breaking into groups to develop the action plan

We had an amazing group of 12 highly engaged youth!

Follow them on Instagram here. They hit the ground running after only one day of training!

Putting their newly learned skills to work at the Secaucus Community Garden

Practicing what they learned at the training

Making composting signs for the Secaucus Community Garden

Talking to residents about the benefits of composting

Launching a video project

Developing a Public Service Announcement to raise awareness and educate and encourage the local community to compost food waste; the PSA will be screened at local theaters, outdoor venues, and social media platforms.

Thanks to the Secaucus Next Generation Community Leaders, (funded by a grant from New Jersey Health Initiatives through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), the 11th Hour Project, the Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation, and A Few Cool Hardware Stores for making this training possible!  And to the Town of Secaucus Environmental Department for hosting us on July 11th!

Interested in ILSR training your group? Contact us at

“On behalf of our team, thank you for the incredibly thorough, informative, and interactive training that you provided for our students. The feedback from everyone was great. It is evident how much time and care you put into preparing for the day you spent with us, and we are so appreciative.  Having this basis of knowledge of the why and how of composting is essential for our group to be successful this summer, and I am so grateful that they learned the ropes from you!”

Jamie Sierfeld, LMTI Director

New Jersey NSR training


Follow the Institute for Local Self-Reliance on Twitter and Facebook and, for monthly updates on our work, sign-up for our ILSR general newsletter.