A hui that battles school waste faced closure. Then the community stepped in

Windward Zero Waste School Hui was in trouble. Just like many nonprofits, COVID-19 endangered their program.
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 2:31 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2022 at 4:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Windward Zero Waste School Hui was in trouble. Just like many nonprofits, COVID-19 endangered their program.

Staff thought that 17 years of hard work was going to come to an end ― until they realized how much they meant to the community.

The hui takes organic material from five schools and turns it into compost.

“If you look at the schoolyard is an ecosystem, it’s a disaster,” said Mindy Jaffe, the coordinator for the organization. “And we’re correcting that. We’re turning it into a sustainable, balanced ecosystem.”

Kainalu Elementary School has had the program for years. They have multiple compost piles around their campus, worm bins, and gardens.

I believe we’ve gone from about 22 bags of trash during school lunch to about four,” said Principal Kimberly Anthony-Maeda.

They sell Vermicast, worms, and teach kids about sustainability in the process.

Workers are passionate about their jobs, and they kept up the enthusiasm even after schools doubled their waste when they began offering free breakfast last year.

But before they knew it, all that extra work ate up all of their funds.

“It was gonna be the end,” Jaffe said. “I emailed everybody and I said don’t come to work because I don’t have a job for you. We’re done.”

“I was devastated,” said Anthony-Maeda. “My own children go to school here. And they have a brand new outlook on reducing our footprint as far as waste for our schools.”

But Jaffe’s employees had a different idea.

“We’re going to start a GoFundMe campaign and we’re gonna make money,” said staff member Ron Brasher. “And we did and we came back to work.”

In about 20 days, the GoFundMe raised over $13,000.

“I was totally floored,” Jaffe said. “I was just amazed.”

“When we ran out of money, I thought, man. You better be doing something else with your life because this ain’t going nowhere,” she said.

“But now I’m feeling that that’s just not true. It is going somewhere.”

They’re hoping for a bit more support until the compost is ready to sell. But they can keep the worms full for another month.

If you would like to contribute to the Windward Zero Waste School Hui GoFundMe, donate here.

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