The latest in campus composting

Managing waste in a way that keeps it out of landfills is just one of the Sustainability Office’s duties. Waste diversion usually takes the shape of recycling. But empty containers and stacks of old homework aren’t the only things that can be recycled. Through composting, the nutrients in food scraps and other organic matter can be reused as well. This is why, with the help of the Student Government Association, four new demonstration composters have been purchased -or made- for composting here at Unity College.

The sustainability crew put together the composters at the 2012 Earth Day fest.

The TerraHaus, the Unity House, and the nearby residences of Stephen and Lisa Nason and Rebecca Neville have all been outfitted with individual composters, meant to demonstrate different approaches to backyard composting on a home scale. The composters fall into two major categories: two are tumbler-style composters that make it easy to turn the compost while the others are immobile bin-style composters. The President and Nason residences have the distinction of being hand-made. While these options are less expensive, they do have the drawback of some assembly required.This variety of composting techniques provides Unity College students with a unique learning opportunity. These composters are now available to teach students everything about how to compost properly: from managing temperatures by turning the compost, to balancing the carbon and nitrogen content of the compost pile. Students here will also be able to witness the benefits and challenges associated with each style of composting. In the future, students will be able to stage experiments to see how different materials affect the compost as well. These sites’ shared quality of being small residences with their own kitchens makes it easier to monitor how the composters are being used and utilize all the food waste coming from these sources.

The composters are not the only way food waste on campus is being diverted from the landfills, though. Food scraps from the kitchen and dining hall go directly to a local farmer to feed his pigs. In return, the college has the opportunity to have those nutrients return to the campus in the form of pig manure to incorporate into our compost.

While this may seem like a small step, it is a step in the right direction. Twice a year, these composters will be emptied and the compost will be combined and “finished” at another site.  When this compost is complete, it will be used to build strong soils in our campus fields.  Until then, the backyard composters serve our campus community as windows of opportunity and shining examples of sustainability in action.

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About Kelsey Schrey