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Campus composting strives for sustainability

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Food waste is one of the top three components in landfills and leads to the emission of methane, which is 23 times more harmful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Based on calculations done by third-year and former Compost TA Dylan Ricke, the composting that was done last year at New College effectively took one car off the road in terms of emissions.

The current Compost TA and tutorial members said the campus has the capability to produce a significantly larger amount of compost and generate an even more positive effect, if more students participate. This increased generation of compost would also help the program reach its current goal of sustainability.

The plans are in place to eventually sell the compost in Sarasota, but first more compost has to be generated. According to thesis student and Vice President of the Council of Green Affairs (CGA) Angelica Alexander, the program is currently being funded in part by CGA funds. If the compost can be sold in large enough quantities, the program can generate its own funds and become economically stable.

“We want to get to the point where TAs are not needed,” third-year and Compost TA Juan Gonzalez said. “Maybe a self-sufficient composting club filled with people who just want to get together and compost.”

Composting as the campus currently knows it started with alum David Smith (’10), who analyzed how viable it would be to sustain composting at New College using cost benefit analysis. With funds from the CGA, he purchased the necessary equipment and set up the TA position which has currently been held by four students.

Compost tutorial began last spring. It educates students on the composting process and provides hand on experience. The tutorial is slightly smaller this year, as is the amount of compost being produced.

Alexander believes this is due to the fact that personal composting bins are optional this year, a result of not working with Physical Plant to distribute the bins. Students had the opportunity to sign up for a personal composting bucket at club fair earlier this semester, whereas last year the white buckets were supplied to everyone. The bins were implemented last year as the result of a green fee allocation.

“I would like for participation in the program to increase,” Gonzalez said. “Students can email me if they want a personal bucket.”

There are currently large stacks of unused personal compost buckets residing in the newly fenced in compost area. The fence was put up by Physical Plant at no cost to the composting program. It is located next to the old composting site behind the tennis courts.

The compost site holds a number of other items, including extra green bins typically found around campus in residential areas and the composting bike which is used to transport the green bins across campus. Soon the major components of the composting process will be moved into the area as well.

Composting on campus is a four-part process. The compost TA and students partaking in the tutorial collect the green bins filled with slowly rotting fruits, vegetables and grains. They are then put into a Ridan Composter affectionately called “Big Bertha,” where the material heats up and is decomposed by bacteria. It is then transferred to maturation boxes labeled “Thing One” and “Thing Two.” Finally, once the material has been broken down enough it is put into a verma compost bin where worms ultimately turn it into humus, the end product of composting which can be mixed with other soil and used to plant with.

“We’re doing what the planet is trying to do on its own,” second-year Olivia Mealor said. “We’re just expediting the process.”

Historically the humus that has been created is given to the garden tutorial or other interested students.

“Personally, I think we need extensive quality control nutrients-wise before we can consider selling the compost to businesses for profit,” Gonzalez said during a follow up e-mail interview. “Furthermore since the student body contributes most of the material we compost, I think it should be an available, free resource for them.”

Those involved with composting on campus have experienced the progress the program has made over the past couple years. According to Mealor, the composting process has “taken steps in the right direction” and is operating more fluidly this year.

The composting team acknowledged that there are certain things that students could do to accelerate the process, such as refraining from putting alcohol in buckets, removing fruit stickers from items and disposing of plastic bags that might be used for bin liners. These are items that have to be hand removed from the compost later on.

Information for this article was taken from www.epa.gov and www.unep.org

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