Composting in the cafeteria

By Sadie Pass

Recently, a group of Southwestern students have joined together to make a difference on campus; they have instated a plan to make the University a composting friendly place. In the Commons students areencouraged to scrape their raw fruits and vegetables into a green container to be composted, and in the Garden students work with composting gear to reduce waste and fertilize the campus.

“So we’re really working now to spark a fire and spark some interest, so that we can have a large number of volunteers who are willing and excited about diminishing waste a little bit. With both this composting initiative and single stream recycling, 70% to 90 % [of waste] could be diverted from a landfill which is pretty remarkable,” said Joey Kyle.

Kyle and SEAK, Southwestern University’s environmental club, are taking charge of the composting situation and outlining a plan to reduce waste. Part of this plan takes place in the Commons with the addition of a bucket that students can put their compostable leftovers into.

“So this is kind of a trial run with this green bucket which will be a permanent thing, but right now we have to definitely emphasize the educational aspect because people put burritos and napkins [in the bucket], napkins decompose pretty well but we’re trying to keep it as straight forward as possible – just raw fruits and vegetables,” said Kyle.

In order to use the compost made at Southwestern, it must be balanced and full of nurturance, which explains the limitations on what can be put into the bucket in the Commons.

“Right now we’re really focusing on getting the right composition of greens and browns because it’s a question of nitrogen and carbon sources…that’s one of the reasons we are now collecting in the commons where we’re only taking raw fruits and vegetables. Some people have salads with dressing on them and we’re keeping away from that because [the compost] is so sensitive,” said Kyle.

Once your scraps are taken out of the Commons by student workers, they are dumped into the composting machine in the Garden called the “Earth Tub” which is very sensitive about the materials put in it.

“Here at our school, our compost runs out of a single device; a pretty huge vat at the garden called the “Earth Tub.”┬áIt can take some meat and it can take some grains but we like to keep that to as little aspossible because it is quite sensitive, and we have had some literally rotten yields,” said Kyle.

In order to add more greens to the Earth Tub, SEAK’s composting committee found funding through a grant and set up a plan to make composting easy and accessible for the whole campus.

“We applied for and received what’s called a SEED grant, which is an environmental studies grant for five thousand dollars,” said Kyle.

This money will be used to by a bike with a pedicab to pick up the compost all over campus, which will be everywhere from the first year residency halls to the upper classmen apartments. The apartments with kitchens are expected to produce the largest amount of compostable materials.

“[The apartments] have their own kitchens, so that is a bigger yield we imagine and it is hard to envisionhow we would make it easy for them to compost but also make it manageable for us. Right now, what’son the books is that we would have compost collection bins for upper classmen to apply to so that noteveryone would compost if they didn’t want to. Maybe like a hundred suites could apply, which wouldcover like two hundred people,” said Kyle.

Members of the SEAK compost committee, such as Nasir Shujan, are dedicated to the idea of individuals making a difference.

“I realize that composting might not seem like it’s “changing the world,” but…composting is a great way to begin the process of sustainable integration on an individual scale,” said Shujan.

With the composting bucket in the Commons and similar buckets all around campus residence halls, composting becomes an easy way for individual students to help in the collective composting goal. If you want to do more than just put your food scraps in composting reciprocals, there are many ways to help out.

“First of all, participating in the Commons process is a good start, and stopping people that are doing wrong things, that’s one easy way to help. Visit the Earth Tub, visit the garden, there are [volunteers]who pick up the compost, and you can contact me, or…SEAK,” said Kyle.


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