In Portsmouth: Compost ‘Bake Sale’ benefits schools’ zero-waste initiatives

Clean Ocean Access hosts event at Clements’

By Jim McGaw
Posted 5/3/21

It was a different kind of bake sale fund-raiser Saturday morning at Clements’ Marketplace. Instead of muffins, cookies and pies, you got to bring home five gallons of dirt.

Well, not …

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In Portsmouth: Compost ‘Bake Sale’ benefits schools’ zero-waste initiatives

Clean Ocean Access hosts event at Clements’

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — It was a different kind of bake sale fund-raiser Saturday morning at Clements’ Marketplace. Instead of muffins, cookies and pies, you got to bring home five gallons of dirt.

Well, not exactly dirt — healthy compost to add to your garden.

The nonprofit Clean Ocean Access (COA) hosted the sale as part of its Healthy Soils Healthy Seas Rhode Island program, which encourages more people, businesses and schools to engage in composting.

Those who stopped by Saturday were asked to bring their own bucket, but if they didn’t have one, volunteers filled up sacks with compost. COA charged $5 for five gallons of compost, and all proceeds helped support future composting programs at Portsmouth public schools. 

“We’re selling it to raise 100 percent of the funds so that the Portsmouth schools can continue to compost in their lunchrooms, because they have to pay someone to collect it from them. So, we’re connecting the loops,” said Dave McLaughlin, COA’s executive director. “This right here is the circular economy; this is the jobs, this is the environment.”

Mr. McLaughlin said composting — whether that's separating your food scraps or using the finished compost to help your plants grow — helps reduce waste footprints, improve ocean health, and enrich the local ecosystem. 

“Reducing carbon emissions is like getting into a hybrid vehicle, which is really important. Drawing down carbon is taking it out of the atmosphere and putting it back into the ground, and you can grow more vibrant vegetation,” he said, adding the composting can directly help solve the climate change problem.

About 150 residents are currently enrolled in the COA home composting program, in which individuals collect food scraps at their home and then deposit them in designated containers such as those set up at the transfer station on Hedly Street or in the back parking lot at Clements. 

Although Mr. McLaughlin said he’d like to see more residents sign on to the composting program, it’s already made a big difference. 

“As a project overall, since we’ve started we’ve diverted 1,040 tons, which is a little over 2 million tons of food scraps,” he said. “The island can be a leader, and each one of these communities believes in the environment so much. It’s good to connect not only the residents and the restaurants, but the schools, because it’s a multi-generational approach to a common opportunity that we’re all facing.”

For more information, visit cleanoceanaccess.org.

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.