Composting Program Comes to St. Mary's

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This year, a composting program has been put into action, headed by Jennifer Walker, the Sustainability Fellow at St. Mary’s College. Every Monday or Tuesday, white buckets with compost stickers are collected from the townhouses, filled with the past week’s compost, and taken to the campus farm. After it is taken to campus farm, the compost is put into one big pile, then split into smaller piles based on the percentages of what they have. Over the course of approximately six months, it all becomes dark material that can be used on the farm. In addition, there are composting bins in Lewis Quad (LQ) and Waring Commons (WC). The Great Room and the Daily Grind are also participating, sending their compost the campus farm every morning. It is Walker’s hope that eventually the traditional residence halls will be able to have composting buckets, though she admits that pick-up is currently more complicated and logistics need to be figured out before that can happen.

In terms of assisting St. Mary’s with sustainability, composting removes a certain percentage of carbon from landfills. “Last year we probably removed 30 metric tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere through the creation of the composting program,” Walker said. “Now that the program is much bigger, we’re looking to remove a lot more carbon from our emissions.”

Walker also said that many students are not aware of the composting program or its purpose. “Mostly I just want the students to know how much organic waste we produce and how much of that we can put in a different location for a different use than what you would normally do with a landfill,” she said. “It’s good to get the students involved in understanding where their food comes from and what is required for that food to be there.” Additionally, she said she has been seeing some apathy in many students; last week, several composting buckets that had never been used last semester were collected. “I want people to email me and ask for buckets,” Walker said. “You don’t have to be a composting superstar, you just have to do enough to know what you’re doing makes a difference, and every little bit helps, even an apple core or an orange peel. It adds up, and it’ll absolutely benefit the farm. Hopefully,  we can eventually start to take compost from the community [outside of St. Mary’s] and divert more of that waste from landfills.”

Some Environmental Science classes are required to spend time with Walker as part of their service requirements, such as Environmental Perspectives and Biology 101: The Science of Gardening. Eventually, Walker would like for all of the Environmental Science classes to have to do a sustainable initiatives service hour.

In an effort to get students more involved, Walker is working on programs to get more information out about composting. During Arbor Week (the week of March 30), the St. Mary’s Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) will be leading a workshop with sustainability-targeted events. Walker said, “I created the theme to be human impact, so it’s how we affect our environment and how our environment affects us… It’s not even just about being green. One of the films that I’m showing is about eco-terrorism, and that’s a direction that we haven’t really explored before… There are consequences to actions and there are limits to actions, and there are different ways to get involved. I want people to be interested.”

While there are other sustainability programs in the works, Walker said that the composting program is “probably the biggest success that’s going on right now.” For those who are interested in getting a composting bucket, email Jennifer Walker at jawalker1@smcm.edu.

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