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Preschoolers at Leesburg Presbyterian Church learn the ABCs of composting


Environmental team teaches intergenerational lessons to Virginia church members

June 29, 2024

A student at the Leesburg (Virginia) Presbyterian Church preschool uses a compost bucket in class. (Contributed photo)

Some of the youngest members of an Earth Care Congregation in Leesburg, Virginia, are getting an early lesson in Creation Care.

“Preschoolers at Leesburg Presbyterian Church take an active role in the church’s composting program, which began last fall,” said Laura Renauld, who leads the church’s Earth Care Team. Composting involves collecting food scraps and other compostable materials so they can be transformed, with the help of an area company, into a mixture that can then benefit lawns and gardens.

Leesburg latched onto composting as “an accessible way for the members of the congregation to be more active in environmental stewardship right from their own home because our congregation could then be the drop spot for that,” Renauld said. “I don’t think at this time we have more than a handful of people doing that. But seeing it in fellowship every Sunday is a way to educate (members), and we wanted to reduce the amount of trash we were putting in the dumpster, and this has significantly cut down on that by using compostable plates and cups since that was the bulk of our trash.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has called composting “one of the most powerful actions we can take to reduce trash in landfills, address climate change and build healthy soil.”

Students in Leesburg Presbyterian Church’s preschool are actively involved in the church’s composting program. (Contributed photo)

“By turning our food scraps and yard trim into compost, we transform our waste streams into a beneficial, value-added soil amendment and use it to protect the environment and create resilient communities,” according to the EPA.

“Preschoolers love to compost!” the Earth Care Team noted in a report to the Presbyterian Hunger Program. When Leesburg Presbyterian Church contracted with a local composting service last year, “the church preschool embraced the opportunity to teach environmental stewardship to its 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds.”

Coffee filters are used as plates for the kids, and “instead of cleaning up with a trash can, each classroom sports a 5-gallon bucket to collect the waste,” the report said. “The coffee filter, food scraps and paper towels can all be composted.” Also, “there is even a new classroom job for the children to look forward to,” a compost helper who gets to wear an apron emblazoned with a worm.

The kids also are involved in sorting. “There’s a bin for their wrappers and then there’s a different container for the banana peels and the coffee filters and they seem to understand at least the sorting of it,” preschool director Angela Helge said.

The purpose of the program is reinforced in various ways to help the children learn.

Three-dimensional posters help to educate members of Leesburg Presbyterian about composting. (Contributed photo)

“We talk about how they’re feeding the Earth and they’re feeding the worms,” Helge said. Also, “we’ve been able to kind of show them how things have broken down and we’ve got a couple different picture books.”

To help further instill good habits, the preschool has “cut down on single-use snacks and single-use containers and the kids use reusable water bottles,” she said.

Helge and Renauld are hopeful that the lessons and practices will carry over to adulthood.

“The health of our Earth is for our children really more than for ourselves,” Renauld said. “If they’re learning early on to have those habits and to be good stewards, then they will be thinking about that as they grow and just incorporating that will just be a normal everyday thing that they incorporate into their lives.”

Leesburg Presbyterian is a certified Earth Care Congregation, a designation from PHP for Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations that shows their commitment to environmental stewardship through worship and discipleship, educational efforts, facilities management and outreach.

Along with composting, Leesburg started an Earth Care Fair.

“We had our first one last October, and that was kind of when we were also starting to compost, so it was a big educational opportunity for us,” Renauld said. “We had a sustainable table. Everything that was being used was compostable — the food, the plates, the cups — everything — and we had posters and signage” plus statistics to promote composting.

Get started on the path to becoming an Earth Care Congregation by going here for more information. Find re-certification materials by downloading “Earth Care Congregations: A Guide to Greening Presbyterian Churches.”

Darla Carter, Communications Strategist

Today’s Focus: Preschoolers at Leesburg Presbyterian Church getting early lesson in Creation Care

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Kristen Leucht, Senior Church Consultant, Los Angeles, CA, Board of Pensions 
Brad Levy, Production Clerk, Presbyterian Distribution Center, Administrative Services Group (A Corp) 

Let us pray

Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of the cosmos, may we draw ever closer to your vision for this world and our proper role in it. Help us to value, enjoy, rest and delight in your Creation even as we confess and work to repair the harm caused. In Christ who showed us the way. Amen.