Waste not, want not. Thanks to student environmentalists, Oberlin’s emphasis on composting is increasing at an astonishing rate.
Last semester, the Resource Conservation Team managed to divert over 704 pounds of food waste from going to landfills.
Team members expect that figure to continue to rise this spring as the composting program grows and awareness spreads.
“Eventually we hope to expand such that the entire campus could compost, with our current system being a stepping stone to that larger goal,” said several members of the RCT in an email.
The fall compost initiative consisted of 14 pick-up systems in 12 dormitories. The pick-up system in Kahn Hall, an environmentally sustainable building, was run independently by five student captains. This spring, the RCT hopes to extend the project to 30 programs across campus.
“Last semester’s success is allowing us to expand the program and continue towards our goal of making residential composting a lasting and routine part of on-campus life at Oberlin,” according to a statement by the RCT.
Despite the program’s growth, participants anticipate that costs for the compost initiative will remain low. RCT members say the majority of the labor is provided by student volunteers while the act of composting itself is completely free. Necessities, such as buckets and weekly truck use, are paid for by the Facilities Operations department.
Many students on campus believe composting is well worth these small costs because it’s a part of the earth’s natural growth and decay cycle.
“Rather than needlessly adding millions of tons of food waste to our already overflowing and limited landfills, composting allows for that material to be cycled back into the earth in a way that is very beneficial for soil and future plant growth,” said College junior Jenny Taylor, an active environmentalist at Oberlin.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, compost can reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, promote higher yields of agricultural crops and capture and destroy 99.6 percent of industrial volatile chemicals in contaminated air.
“It is a no-brainer in terms of ecology, recycling and the food system here at Oberlin,” said Taylor.
This spring, 30 captains will be selected to lead the charge at their respective pick-up locations. They will be responsible for notifying their fellow residents about the program and making the compost bins available. Every Sunday, the bins will be taken to the Johnson House garden to be emptied and cleaned; each captain is asked to help out with the process once or twice over the course of the semester.
Although the program requires some extra effort among members of the student body, participants say the sacrifice is well worth the trouble. For years, Oberlin students have prided themselves on their commitment to environmental sustainability and developing eco-friendly practices.
“Composting is important for this campus not only because of its positive environmental impact, but also because it reflects the kind of conservation-minded attitudes we strive to hold at Oberlin,” said Taylor.