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.” It 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.


“Dero Fix-It” Bike Repair

Next semester will bring new conveniences to cyclists and bike lovers at the university through a bike repair station called a “Dero Fix-It” and a bike part vending machine that will beinstalled on campus.

“[A Dero Fix-It] is a bike stand with tools and a pump attached to it. You can mount abike and do minor repairs on it. There will be attached instructions for things like fixing flats,”senior Ben Parafina said. In conjunction with SEAK, Parafina received a Seed Grant and a King Creativity Grantto organize the creation of a bike repair station and install a bike part vending machine oncampus.

“A repair station would benefit the student body because students’ own bikes can be a phenomenal way to travel across campus or elsewhere, but certain things, such as flat tires or a broken chain, can prevent these bikes from being functional,” sophomore Sean Stone-Ashe said.

“A bike repair station would therefore benefit the student body by giving them the ability to quickly and easily fix their bike woes,”Parafina is something of a bike expert around campus.

In addition to working for the non-profit bicycling organization Bike Texas, he built his own bike on campus. Parafina’s experiencewith bikes inspired him to organize the bike repair station.

“As gas got more expensive, more of my friends got bikes and people would come to meto get their bikes fixed. I just wanted to make sure people could fix and ride their own bikes,” said Parafina.


THE CHALLENGE, an event sponsored by Students for Environmental Activism and Knowledge (SEAK), will take place at 5:30 p.m. on the mall today.

“The purpose of the event is to raise awareness around issues related to composting andrecycling,” sophomore Joey Kyle said.

THE CHALLENGE is a tag competition in which players dress as recyclable objects andtaggers attempt to sort them into correct compostable and recyclable categories.

Prizes including gift cards and concert tickets will be awarded to the winners. SEAK will also hand out environmental literature.

Yesterday, SEAK hosted a drum circle to advertise the event in the Commons and hand out environmental fortunes.

SEAK’s ultimate purpose for this year is to get bottled water off campus and contribute to the University’s sustainability.

“In the upcoming months there will be a revamping of past compost systems and our hopes are that people will be educated enough to have a self-sustained compost system,” Kyle said.

SU Hosts peace conference after years of hard work

The logo for the SPA.  Courtesy of Google Images.

The logo for the SPA. Courtesy of Google Images.

If you are sick of folks north of Dallas not knowing where Southwestern University is, fret no more: We’re going national. This weekend, Feb. 26-28, Southwestern University is hosting the 2010 National Student Peace Alliance, welcoming approximately 500 students from all over the United States to campus.

“Student Peace Alliance is a national organization that works to mobilize youth with the common cause of making peace building a priority in our federal government,” said senior and President of Student Peace Alliance (SPA), Martin Fergus. “The conference will focus primarily on developing strategies for peace and conflict resolution in the government at state, local and federal levels. For instance, we’re going to be examining issues surrounding legislative action. This conference will educate students on exactly how peace and conflict resolution works at the national level.”

The process of hosting this conference at Southwestern University has been a long one, as well as a sad one. “Rob Atkinson, who passed away a year ago, is the former president of the Student Peace Alliance,” Fergus said. “SPA was established in 2005. He went to the 2006 conference at Brandeis University, and that was the first conference for the Student Peace Alliance. He was so inspired by what he saw at the conference that he wanted the conference to be here at Southwestern University.” Atkinson and Fergus applied and were granted permission to hold the conference by the SPA, but weren’t able to get permission from the administration at Southwestern University. “The administration wasn’t ready because they didn’t feel like they had the right procedures and documentation necessary in order to handle that amount of people. The liability issues were also big ones,” said Fergus.

The next year, Atkinson and Fergus decided to give it another try. “We went to President Schrum’s office with an number of SEAK and SPA members,” explained Fergus. “We filled his room with 20 students and asked him point blank ‘Can we have this conference?’ He told us he would set up a meeting with all the deans.”

Atkinson and Fergus were permitted to present their case at the meeting. “Rob gave this beautiful speech as to why it would be important to have a conference here,” Fergus continued. “He said we’d be promoting Texas as not just some backwoods place, and that there can be a peace movement in Texas. He said that Southwestern would be elevated to a national level to have a conference like this here.”

The response? “And so they said ‘no’ to us again!” laughed Fergus.

Six months later, tragedy struck, and turned the entire thing around: Rob Atkinson was struck by a vehicle on Highway 29 and died.

Some members of SPA walking for peace in Austin.

Some members of SPA walking for peace in Austin.

“About 48 hours after [the accident], Jerry Brody, the Dean of Students, approached me and said that he had talked to President Schrum, and they had talked about having the conference here to fulfill Rob’s dream.” Nearly three years after the idea’s conception, the National Peace Conference is finally going to be held at Southwestern University.

The lineup of speakers for the conference is astoundingly impressive. “On Friday, [the conference] will be focused primarily on international issues. Dr. Eric Selbin will be speaking on Latin America.

On Saturday, the focus will be domestic,” said Fergus. “We have a couple of domestic abuse prevention programs coming. For instance, Hope Alliance out in Round Rock will be here. An incarceration prevention program that works with at-risk youth, called Southwest Key Program, will be in attendance.”

Other speakers include Harriet Fulbright of the Fulbright Association, one of the filmers of The Invisible Children, the Sheriff of Los Angeles Police Department, and a Colonel from West Point.

“The bottom line is that we want students to know that peace isn’t just this Utopian ideal that exists somewhere in books,” Fergus said of the conference. “I think that being able to have this conference at Southwestern University is a fulfillment of Rob’s dream, and an articulation of the vision that Rob had for the peace movement. Every one on this campus, especially for those in Student Peace Alliance, are very proud of that fact.”

Student Peace Alliance meets every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in the Mood-Bridwell Atrium. For further information on SPA, please contact Martin Fergus.

Southwestern To Purchase Only Wind Energy

The meeting on renewable energy.  Photo by Carlos Barron.

The meeting on renewable energy. Photo by Carlos Barron.

This past Tuesday, the Georgetown City council met to confirm a decision that would allow Southwestern to purchase all of its electricity from renewable resources, specifically wind power, which is produced in West Texas by American Electric Powers (AEP). The meeting was attended by many of the members of SEAK, who cheered when the final announcement was made.

The meeting started with the council going into closed session before making the announcement, which led to a few uncertain moments in the main hall. After the official announcement, President Schrum addressed the council, thanking them and the students of SEAK, who had worked to get this measure passed. Mayor George Carver and Schrum shook hands and signed the bill together while cameras clicked, pointed at the students as well as the two leaders. Schrum, in his statement, said that while some university presidents have to worry about the kinds of leaders they produce, he did not, if this was what his students were doing already.

Wind TurbinesGeorgetown will purchase the energy from AEP, which generates energy at two main wind farms, the Southwest Mesa and South Trent Wind Farms in West Texas, near Abilene. Southwestern uses as much electricity as about 450 homes, and, according to Schrum, this will go a long way in Southwestern’s goal to be carbon neutral in the future. Southwestern will be the first university wholly powered by renewable energy in Texas, and one of only 16 in the nation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Senior Lorena Saenz said, “It’s an incredible relationship that Southwestern administration has with the student body. Some SEAK students got the idea a couple years ago that Southwestern can and should be powered by clean energy, and they took the initiative to talk to the right people. That relationship and ongoing dialogue made it happen!”
Mindful of the future, Schrum said that when prospective students come to visit, sustainability will be a factor. “If we can’t give them a good answer, they’ll get on their car, bike or hybrid, and leave.” A step has been taken to prevent that from happening.