For her final project in Integrated Global Studies at New Trier High School, Mary Baillos ’24 studied whether municipalities with limited funds for waste diversion initiatives should invest in either curbside recycling or composting. She considered the environmental impact and feasibility of both programs. A semester of research later, Baillos not only concluded that municipal composting programs would have a significant impact on reducing carbon emissions, but she presented her findings to the community’s Board of Trustees. In May, the village of Winnetka, Ill. launched a new composting program.
“Since China stopped accepting foreign waste, recycling has become very expensive. Now glass, plastic and paper in communities without recycling facilities are going into landfills. But composting can happen anywhere. It doesn’t even need to be picked up, people can put it in their backyards,” Baillos says.
“When I presented to the Board of Trustees, they were really receptive. Right after, a Trustee came up and asked if we could help with composting for the Winnetka Music Festival.”
Developing a composting strategy for the Winnetka Music Festival proved to be an excellent opportunity to gain support for a village-wide initiative. A common barrier to composting, Baillos says, is that people do not know which receptacle to place their items in. In order to confront this challenge, Baillos and a friend staffed waste disposal sites at the event and helped people identify whether to place their item in the landfill, recycling or composting bins.
On a personal level, the project motivated Baillos to compost at home. “If people want to make a difference environmentally, starting with composting is a great way to do it,” says Baillos, who notes while her family found composting challenging at first, they have been won over by knowing that they generate less trash for the landfill and their trash also has less odors.
At HWS, Baillos plans to major in environmental studies and would eventually like to pursue a career in environmental law. When making her college decision, Baillos called Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Beth Kinne to ask her about the Colleges’ curriculum. Kinne, who has her J.D. and LL.M. in Asian and Comparative Law, provided Baillos with information about interdisciplinary coursework, the Finger Lakes Institute and opportunities to conduct research with the Colleges’ faculty. “She gave me a lot of information about HWS’ programs, but she also just asked me about myself,” Baillos says.
Another motivating factor in her decision to attend HWS was the Colleges’ Episcopalian roots. “At home, I’m a member of my churches’ Benevolence Committee. I really enjoy being a part of an episcopal community, so I felt a special connection to HWS.”