Friday, October 8, 2010

Composting at UIC?

With the number of college campuses that have composting programs and the UIC's Climate Action Plan, it is surprising there hasn't been more discussion about composting on the UIC campus. UIC has the goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by at least 80% by year 2050 and also is aware of the need to implement composting on campus. The UIC Climate Action Plan states on page 40: 
Landfilling solid waste generates methane emissions, a strong greenhouse gas. Sometimes those emissions are captured and flared; other times they are captured and used for power generation. This all depends on the type of landfill. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the amount of waste sent to a landfill needs to be reduced. Composting waste materials will also offset carbon emissions. In order to achieve zero waste, there has to be composting. While greenhouse gas emissions due to the waste stream are small at UIC, there are still a number of ways that UIC can reduce its current waste stream and increase composting. Also, recycling is one of the most visible ways to promote sustainability.
No matter the amount of emissions, UIC could implement composting to reduce emission but also to promote the routine of composting and influence the campus population to do it themselves. The plan states that there is an interest on campus, from Sodexo to Facilities Management, but who is acting on that interest?

The Jane Addams Hull House Urban Farm currently composts near the green house, but has not spread any further. In the September 2010 edition of BioCycle Magazine, an article discusses different US college campuses that have composting programs. Most of the programs have been initiated by students, but some were from research grants and the LEED certification standards for buildings.

For example, Vanderbilt University started a program at a commons because of their LEED accreditation, it is still a small program but allows students to get involved. However, it is Goucher College's initiative started by the Agricultural Co-op that I found very impressive. Compost tumblers are placed all around their campus, inviting people to give it a spin. The Goucher population can put their fruit, vegetable, and coffee scraps into white containers next to the tumbler to wait for the co-op student empty in with the rest of the compost. The co-op wanted to create a closed loop for their garden so they grow food, compost the waste from the dining halls and kitchens, produce the compost, use it on their garden, and sell the excess in 5-gallons buckets for $4 each. This initiative gave Goucher's facilities management the drive to set up a larger-scale program with Waste Neutral Group to collect pre- and post-consumer foods and soiled paper.

As a campus within the city, it makes the most sense to collect compost and have it taken off site to be produced. With the rise of local farms and produce, there is sure to be use for all of our organic scraps. The article Expanding Diversion of Food Scraps and Soiled Paper explains three ways to help implement composting successfully.

They first recommended policy changes including raising disposal fees, charging full costs for landfills and making them liable for future damages, giving carbon credits, and obtaining composting permits. Operational changes included restructuring collection to reduce cost by collecting trash on a less-than-weekly basis and organics more frequently and enclosing composting operations to reduce air emissions. Lastly, public awareness includes emphasizing resource conservation with soil and water and use appropriate terms like trimmings and scraps instead of waste.

Could the concept of sustainability and community, as I discussed in my last post, be used here?

Could we succeed using community in respect to UIC through the Green Youth Revolution, the Jane Addams Hull House Urban Farm, and the UIC Office of Sustainability? Would they bring together outside sources to create the most knowledgeable team? 

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