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Phillips Middle School Students Win 1st-Place Award in Lexus Eco Challenge

By Danny Hooley Posted March 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm

A group of five students at Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill have won a $15,000 first place award in the national Lexus Eco Challenge.

They call themselves Trash Terminators 2.0.

The team of is made up of Rohan Deshpande, Vincent Chen, Elizabeth Farmer, Quentin Sieredzki and Graeme Zimmermann.

Together, the kids tackled the problem of too much trash from the school being shipped to a landfill more than 100 miles away.

The Terminators that it was costing the school too much money. And of course, there was a cost to the environment.

So they decided to start a school composting program.

Here’s Terminator Quentin, explaining the project along with his teammates, at a presentation to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen in January:

“We set up composting bins in our school cafeteria,” he said, “in which students and staff dump all their compostable food items, which include food waste, food trays and napkins.”

Not only was it a sound practice for the environment, it was a learning experience for the students at Phillips.

Worm bins were installed in classrooms, so that students could observe the breakdown of organic material.

The Terminators set up social media sites, made posters, and made an ad that ran on local cable, all to educate the public about the benefits of composting.

By all measures, the project was a success.

Here’s Terminator Vincent Chen, at the Carrboro Aldermen meeting.

“We diverted more than 80 percent of the trash going to a landfill by recycling and composting,” said Terminator Vincent. “We will divert 20,500 pounds of trash over 180 state days of school at Phillips.”

This past week, Trash Terminators 2.0 were one of eight first-place award winners in the Lexus Eco Challenge, an educational program that gives young people the incentive to learn about the environment, and come up with ideas to improve it.

According to a press release from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, the Terminators plan to use the $15,000 prize money to replace toilets at Phillips Middle School with ones that use water-saving technology.

The Terminators also would like to invest in rainwater harvesting as a water source for the school, as well as solar panels as a power source.

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