Place your bets on compost

Katherine Doyle, Contributing Writer

As a Division I athlete, I am not allowed to place bets. However, if I could, I would bet that every student and faculty member at the University has taken food from Dining Services and not eaten everything on their plate. I have seen countless dishes piled with leftovers being transported away on the conveyor belt in Bostwick Marketplace. After a late practice with only my team occupying the Bison Café, I have seen endless amounts of fresh fruits, meats, and lettuce that I know will go uneaten because we are the last ones to order dinner. There is a large amount of food waste on campus. Composting our excess food could transform this problem into an opportunity, this waste into a resource.

A report from a study done by Second Nature Education for Sustainability outlined ways for the University to make sustainability a priority.  It suggested that the University organize “clear recycling and waste minimization systems across campus.” We do have those stations, but they could be more clearly labeled. In addition, there is no compost bin; adding a bin to the Bison and Commons Café would allow students to scrape off remaining food from their plates. This would most likely lead to the creation of environmentally conscious students who are more inclined to follow instructions on how to sort meal remnants. Currently, the landfill and recycling bins can be confusing and hard to understand. University students are not unintelligent individuals, but when you see a professor who has an environmental studies degree struggle to sort their trash properly, the issue becomes very apparent. Perhaps adding a third bin that only accepts food, which requires an effortless sorting decision, will simplify the entire sorting process.

A small amount of capital is required to create and install compost bins in dining locations. After structurally arranging the bins, the collection process begins. We could collect the compost and use the University’s pulper to take all of the plates’ scraps and napkins. The pulper extrudes water, compacts the compost, and expels a ground up mixture that is perfect mulching protein matter. The University has given its compost to Rowse Howse Farms, which cannot accept as much compost as we would be able to supply from Bostwick Marketplace alone. The University has open spaces throughout campus, such as behind Becker Field, that could be used to convert compost into soil. Even though our Dining Services operates through an outside source, Parkhurst, they have implemented a composting program with one of their other locations in 2010.

Composting could provide students with more opportunities to work on campus and would be a great opportunity to develop the University as a sustainable living learning laboratory, as suggested by the Second Nature report. The composting site would be highly educational, which is conducive to the goals of the University. We can subsequently use our composted soil in the Lewisburg Community Garden, which could bridge the gap between different departments and the community.

Taking a step like this requires input, some money, and a lot of engagement across the University. It would result in outputs of nutrient-rich soil and save the University from having to pay to send garbage to the landfill. Davidson College composts on their campus and has reduced food going to landfills by over 50 percent and have saved around $10,800 annually in tipping fees.

The outcomes of this compost undertaking would be education, student employment, communication across discipline channels, and connections with the Lewisburg environment and community. The University can implement this small change to manage our food waste much more sustainably. Part of our mission statement proclaims that the University seeks to educate its “students to serve the common good and to promote justice in ways sensitive to the moral and ethical dimensions of life.” Composting may appear impractical or too challenging to institutionalize, but shouldn’t we at least try it to achieve what our mission statement suggests? It is in the spirit of our University to integrate disciplines and learn from trials. I’m willing to risk my spot on my team and bet that implementing a composting program could change the University for the better.

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