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Compost Toolkit for Schools

If you’ve spent some time in your school’s lunchroom, you’ve noticed how much stuff gets thrown away that could be composted or recycled. Your school district might have programs in place to help you get started with this, so it is worth a few phone calls to see if there is a Resource Conservation Specialist or someone with a similar title who can help you along your way.

composting pictureIf you’re in Seattle, you can find your specialists here.

If your school district has a program, they will give you some important information about how to qualify for financial help for dealing with your food waste, ordering bins and bags, etc. However, the logistics of what happens at your school is up to you. And unfortunately there’s not much documented about how other schools are doing it. Which is where this toolkit comes in!

We hope you find it helpful, and if you have suggestions or if you would like to submit materials from your own school, please contact


Getting Started

Guide: How to Start a Compost Program at your School

How to Perform a Lunch Room Waste Audit

Scheduling Volunteers

Tools and Supplies for Composting

Sample Guide for Adult Volunteers

Sample Guide for Student Volunteers

Survey for Kitchen and Lunchroom Staff

Student and Parent Education

Tips from TOPS school on Recycling and Composting at Parties/Events

Getting Started

1. Find out if there is a district-wide program

2. If there isn’t, find out what hurdles need to be cleared at your school to make it happen for you (possibly as a model for your district). Start with your principal, who can tell you the correct people to talk with at the school district. It will likely include people from several different departments, like Facilities/Grounds, Kitchen, Custodial, etc.

3. Talk to people at many different levels to recruit your team. Getting this project up and running does take a team. Here are some people to include. You might not get them all at the same meeting, but you should count them all as stakeholders and make sure they have buy-in, and that they know who to contact if they have questions.

a. Principal

b. Teachers (especially upper grade teachers whose students will be able to assist you, and teachers who are known to have a passion for the environment no matter what grade level)

c. Kitchen staff (they can be your best allies since they are there every day and see what is going on. Most of them hate food waste also!)

d. Custodial staff (they will have insights about where to place bins, how the process is impacting their work – for better or worse, and overall waste reduction).

e. PTA – you will have some start-up costs that need to be funded. It is ideal if you can get an official sustainability coordinator on your PTA so that position is always filled and your program will outlast you!

f. Parents – You need parents for a variety of jobs. These programs work best with parent involvement, especially when the program is new.

g. Students – Most schools have students doing the frontline work. They are passionate and invested in its success, and hold their peers accountable. Most schools start with older students (like 4th and 5th graders) but as the kids learn what is going on, kids of every grade level may be interested in helping.


For the Seattle Area

Use this link and instructions below to obtain a list of Seattle Public Schools that compost. This can be useful if you want to tour schools.

  • Click on “Shared Savings Award”
  • Click on “Shared Savings Award & Utility Data”
  • Click on “Refuse usage data summary”