"Three seventh graders snooping through the trash and what they found could really save some cash," the members of Zero Waste Team sang Monday afternoon while practicing for the upcoming Christopher Columbus Awards.
The Christopher Columbus Awards is a nationwide program that challenges middle-school students to explore opportunities for positive change in their communities
Zero Waste Team, made up of 13-year-olds Eric Long, of Hockessin, Daniel DiMasicio of New Castle, and Susannah Mason , of Wilmington, are one of eight finalists from across the nation who will compete in the Christopher Columbus Awards National Championship Week in Orlando, Fl. June 9-14.
Zero Waste Team is the first team from Delaware to make it to the finals in the competition's 17-year history.
Long said the team's name is a direct correlation to the theme of their project.
"The purpose of the competition is to find a problem and come up with a solution for it," he said. "Our theme is helping the environment and reducing our imprint. We chose the problem of Delaware's landfills filling up and our solution is curbside composting."
The teens researched their project and, with the help of their coach, Long's mom Martine, they were able to organize a 16 home pilot to measure the amount of trash that can be composted instead of dumped in the landfill.
At the conclusion of the 12 week trial, they received nearly a 52 percent diversion rate.
Martine said that throughout the team's progress their families were able to see how much composting made a difference.
"It is overwhelming to see the impact," she said. "Each of their families is very big on recycling and being green, and throughout this whole thing we realized just how much of a difference we can make."
If the Zero Waste Team wins the competition they will receive a $25,000 grant to continue their project.
"We are excited about the possibility of winning the grant, but we plan to continue even if we do not win," Eric said. "As it started, it became less about the competition and more about the project."
"It's just the right thing to do for the environment," DiMasicio added. "Landfills hurt the environment, pollute water, and pollute the air."
The team has a list of goals in mind to complete over the next year.
"We want to divert 20 tons, increase our number of haulers to five (they currently have two), continue to educate through community outreach, and create a website that gets 20,000 unique visitors," said Mason.