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Lunch at Garfield Elementary School in Corvallis was unsurprisingly chaotic Friday, with dozens of kids picking up hot lunches, eating and talking.

But in the center of the room was an island of order as a small team of students and an adult volunteer helped kids sort their compostable items and trash into the appropriate bins. The composting program, which was started in 2015, has significantly reduced the amount of trash the school produces during lunch.

Christy Toliver, Garfield’s assessment technician and the school’s sustainability leader, said the composting program is just one piece of the school’s sustainability efforts. The school also has conducted waste, energy and water audits; encourages staff to be conscious of ways to reduce energy usage, like unplugging things that use electricity before school breaks to avoid “phantom” energy drain; works with facilities staff to fix leaky faucets; and has developed a garden.

The school was presented with an Oregon Green Schools Certificate of Merit in December for these ongoing sustainability efforts, which is the second highest level certifications the Oregon Green Schools organization bestows.

Discussing sustainability efforts like those at Garfield and other Corvallis schools is a part of the agenda for the Corvallis School District’s Sustainability Summit at 6 p.m., Wednesday at the district’s Western View Center, at 1435 SW 35th St. The meeting will also include a presentation of some of the district’s sustainability-related plans and an opportunity for the public to comment on a draft version of the district’s sustainability plan.

The plan has been developed by the Brendle Group, a sustainability consulting firm, and a final draft is expected in March.

Toliver said the sustainability summit will give the public a chance to learn about what the district is already doing to promote sustainability and also hear about the work school sustainability leaders throughout the district have taken on. As an example of the upcoming efforts, Toliver said the school sustainability leaders are pushing for the district to place a dishwasher at every school with funds from the district’s $200 million facilities bond. Currently, only the district's central kitchen is equipped with a dishwasher, which means that the individual schools can't use items such as reusable cups.

“Most of the trash that comes out of (Garfield’s cafeteria) is milk cartons,” said Toliver.

Toliver said it’s important for the district to have sustainability initiatives because most kids in the community come through public schools, so the district potentially could have a huge impact. She added that sustainability efforts that heavily involve kids, like the ones at Garfield, teach kids about sustainability, which they can in turn pass on to their friends and their families.

“Our kids are our real sustainable resource,” she said.

Sylvia Woodruff, a Garfield fourth-grader who volunteers to help her peers sort their compostables from trash during lunch, said she helps out because composting is important.

“It creates valuable soil,” she said.

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Anthony Rimel covers weekend events, education, courts and crime and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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