COLORA, MARYLAND – On Nov. 7, 2019, West Nottingham Academy hosted a meeting of policy makers, educators, farmers, researchers, government and nonprofit conservation organizations, business people, and West Nottingham students to discuss possibilities for Cecil County schools to divert food waste from the trash to methane digesters. Methane digesters convert food waste to usable compost and energy. Attendees at the meeting included County Executive Dr. Alan McCarthy, Delegate Andrew Cassilly, Councilman Al Miller, representatives from Maryland Department of Agriculture, Maryland Department of Energy, University of Maryland, and more.
Through its partnership with Kilby Farm and Creamery, West Nottingham has been diverting its food waste to the Kilby digester for three years keeping tons of waste from landfills, reducing greenhouse gas pollution, and saving thousands of dollars on trash removal costs. In exchange for using the digester, West Nottingham purchases Kilby milk and ice cream, which helps to reduce plastic waste since Kilby milk is bottled in reusable glass, puts healthy locally produced food in the dining hall, and supports the local agricultural economy of Cecil County.
“Food waste diversion programs help save money, get local products into local schools, eliminate plastic from the waste stream and create partnerships between organizations and local farms,” stated County Executive, Dr. Alan McCarthy. “These partnerships will connect young people to environmental sustainability along with the sustainability of local agricultural economies. We owe it to our future generations to incorporate these practices now.”
Mr. Bill Kilby, owner (retired) of Kilby Farm and Dr. Virginia Kennedy, Director of Sustainability Programs and Curriculum for West Nottingham Academy, first met through the Cecil Land Trust, which Mr. Kilby founded to protect the agricultural lands and economy of Cecil County through sustainable farm practices. Mr. Kilby and Dr. Kennedy worked with students to develop a partnership that would build environmental ethics in students, in the county, and in the world since both local and international students attend West Nottingham. At the same time, the partnership reduces trash hauling costs for West Nottingham, the savings from which are then allocated to ongoing sustainability programs on campus. Now West Nottingham is ready to help Cecil County make plans to create similar programs for Cecil County public schools.
“West Nottingham is practicing what they teach. The school’s sustainability program not only teaches students environmental responsibility, it serves as an example to other institutions that it is possible to incorporate sustainable practices,” affirms Delegate Andrew Cassilly, Delegate District 35B, and Assistant Supervisor of Energy Management and Facilities Management for Harford County Public Schools where diverting food waste is already in practice.
“It was an amazing sight watching a roomful of County officials making a commitment to a more sustainable Cecil County,” enthused Mr. Kilby, who brought with him to the meeting Alice and Caleb Cruthers of Long Green Farm, who are making plans to install a digester on their farm. “We want to be part of creating good connections between farms and an environmentally sustainable, economically viable local community,” agreed Ms. Crothers. “I have three children, and I know teaching them to care about how they treat the world they live in from elementary school forward is vital to their healthy futures.”
After introductory comments by Dr. McCarthy and Delegate Cassilly, students from West Nottingham’s
Student Environmental Council along with Dr. Kennedy presented information about how West Nottingham’s program and partnership with Kilby Farm works. A roundtable conversation followed with an agreement to pursue plans to develop a pilot program based on West Nottingham’s program in a Cecil County public school.
“I’m so excited to see the impact our program is having and how what we have been able to do here as a community at West Nottingham – students, faculty, and staff—really matters to the community and beyond,” stated senior, Ethan McNary, from Baltimore, MD. Emilia Jovic, junior from Serbia, couldn’t agree more. “We didn’t talk too much about the environment in my school in Serbia. But I am ready to go back home and change that!”
“After three years of our partnership with Kilby Farm and working on our sustainability programs, our students, teachers, and staff really understand the dedication it takes to make a good program work,” explained Dr. Kennedy. “Our students are learning what success from hard work looks like, and they’re proud of that. From our work on campus to testifying to promote food waste diversion and methane digestion in Annapolis, the students are learning what it means to have a positive impact in the world. I’m grateful to everyone who attended the meeting and who is dedicated to taking the next important steps.”
In February 2019, members of West Nottingham’s Student Environmental Council testified in support of Maryland House Bill (HB) 510 that mandates owners/operators of refuse disposal systems may not accept truckloads of yard waste or food waste unless they have the facilities to compost the waste, and HB 511 that allows digestate produced by anaerobic digestion to be classified and sold as commercial fertilizer. Both bills, authored by Delegate Cassilly, focused on promoting organics recycling through composting and methane digestion to produce organic fertilizer and clean renewable energy. Both bills passed.
Dr. Amro Hassanein, Assistant Research Scientist, Department of Environmental Science and Technology at University of Maryland whose research addresses waste and wastewater treatment challenges, resource recovery and reutilization, and maximizing the production of renewable energy attended the meeting and supports the West Nottingham/Kilby Partnership. “West Nottingham’s students presented their model of sustainable cooperation as a key feature of converting food waste to biogas. That unique partnership between West Nottingham Academy and Kilby Farm presents the best way to fruitful cooperation in the field of converting waste to energy, and this is what we hope to see in the future, cooperation between the schools, community, and farms surrounding.” Dr. Hassanein will be returning to West Nottingham to speak to environmental science students and the whole school community in January 2020.
West Nottingham Academy is a diverse, student-centered day and boarding school for students in 9th through 12th grade and post-graduate. Since its founding in 1744, West Nottingham has prepared students for the challenges of college and life through a curriculum grounded in the liberal arts and sciences, and a commitment to the intellectual, spiritual, and social growth of each student.