Why not having trash service in at SAITH last Fall created a lower waste outdoor education program.

By Katje Falkenstein

Read time 2 mins 20 seconds

If you would have told me 18 months ago that I would be running a kitchen, I would have laughed. There is no one less qualified to run a kitchen.  The only time I am interested in cooking is when my husband is on a work trip and my daughter and I are tired of cottage cheese. Kitchens are not my happy place.  Or so I thought.

In the fall of 2018, our program days at SAITH increased significantly.  We had six months before we had trash and recycling service at SAITH, which meant that I was transporting our waste back to school.  Yes, this was gross. But it also was a great way to learn how much trash we were generating. I quickly became concerned, not only about the permanent smell in my car, but also about our impact on the environment.

I read 101 Ways To Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg, and it changed my world.  I first began composting at home over the summer, so I was ready to compost on a larger scale during the school year.  Everyone tells you that composting in the mountains is impossible because of the bears, but that’s not true if you have a large freezer in which to store compost (and are resigned to the smell of rotting food in your car).  

Another way in which we try to reduce waste is by TerraCycling.  Laura Boroughf showed this to me last year, and it took me a little while to really understand. The students have the choice to use the plastic bags in which the bread, bagels, etc., were initially packaged as an alternative to new plastic bags. This cuts down on the demand for new plastic bags.

My third big adjustment was related to how we purchase food for our outdoor education program.  Rather than buy individually packaged snacks, I try to get snacks in bigger containers and use the bowls in the kitchen at SAITH.  This means more dishes, but there is always a trade-off to any choice. And I am happy to spend some more time doing dishes if it means fewer wrappers in our oceans.

Over the past year and a half, my struggle to understand how to run a kitchen has led me to be a better educator. As many of you know, the kitchen is where many of our consuming habits are formed, and it is the perfect place to learn about sustainability and food waste. I just needed to reframe the kitchen as a sustainability challenge rather than a logistics hurdle.


We still have a ways to go. I still order things on Amazon because it’s convenient. I try to recycle the boxes and bring the packing material to the UPS store, but it is not a sustainable model.  I have put Tupperware and lunch bags on the overnight packing list in hopes that we can use less plastic to pack our sack lunches. You can help by sending these things with your child for overnight trips at SAITH. This goal to be less wasteful is continual.  All we can do is make adjustments and keep trying to minimize our contribution to the landfill. 


In hindsight, I am so thankful that I was thrown into a kitchen and had to transport trash.  I am a better person, educator, Earth Momma, and activist because of the kitchen at SAITH (despite my 2-year-old’s complaints that the car smells like a poopoo diaper).