Start saving your scraps: Students to bring composting program to campus

By Jordan Murray

Sports Editor

The idea originated from sociology major Hannah Johnson.

“I saw and heard about other universities who had implemented a composting system, and I grew up composting at my family’s cabin,” Johnson said. “Considering that Viterbo is a Franciscan university, I really thought that trying to be more sustainable and reusing our resources by composting would not only demonstrate our Franciscan values, but would also benefit our university and community.”

Composting is the process of breaking down organic material like food scraps for use as fertilizer. Only non-protein based foods like fruits, vegetables, breads, pastas, and egg shells can be effectively composted. The food scraps are combined with “ingredients” like worms or soil to help with the breakdown process. This process can occur in an open or closed bin with an air supply.

Depending on the amount and makeup of the compost, it can take several weeks to several months to create usable compost.

The plan at Viterbo will initially only utilize pre-consumer waste like vegetable clippings from the cafeteria kitchen and coffee grounds from Franny’s. Mary Simota of campus dining estimated that this alone will provide 50-60 pounds of waste per week.

The program may grow to also include post-consumer waste, or waste from students at the cafeteria. Post-consumer waste can be more difficult, as only certain food scraps can be composted and separation of compostable and non-compostable food items is important.

Multiple “tumbler” compost bins will be used for the Viterbo composting project. A tumbling compost bin is one that keeps the compost off the ground and away from pest and is able to be turned and mixed easily to allow for more effective breakdown.

Currently, the bins are being purchased via an “adopt-a-bin” program. The Washburn Neighborhood Association has expressed interest in purchasing one or more of the bins, and other campus and community groups have shown interest as well.

The site for composting will be the Washburn Neighborhood Association neighborhood garden, located just two blocks north of campus on 10th and Division streets. Viterbo’s campus sits in the middle of La Crosse’s Washburn neighborhood.

The program will be student-run with volunteer hours, from the transportation of the compost to the site to the maintenance of the compost at the site. The broken-down compost will be used at the garden and other community sites. A handful of campus groups like the BioChem Club have shown interest in their members being involved in the project.

The composting systems at Luther College and UW-La Crosse have been used to help develop Viterbo’s plan. Luther College has effectively run their composting program for over 15 years.

The campus composting plan was developed by a group of students and Residence Life Community Coordinator John Race. When asked about the benefits of implementing the composting program, Race replied, “This entire project has been about getting students involved on campus to help them be good stewards and neighbors on campus and in the local community.”

Sara Meyer was one of the students involved in developing the plan.

“Having this project on campus will provide for students the opportunity to be more aware about sustainability, and it also allows our dinning services on campus to take another step towards going green.” Meyer said. “By composting, I hope that this effort will ignite students to think about other ways their lives and our campus can be more eco-friendly.”

Plans are for the program to be up and running by early April.

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