Let’s dump the dumpsters!

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We are now enjoying every moment of our “exceptionally comfortable” college life, a life filled with ready-to-eat foods. These treats that can be picked up at all hours of the day from the Inn, the Den and the numerous convenience stores around campus.

We are not worried about how our overwhelmed trash cans in each chapter house become empty and clean in the next morning, right after an exuberant party. It seems that we, DePauw students, are so fortunate to have excellent commodity services that we barely think about how it is possible to gather such a huge amount of waste and replace it with hygienic, brand-new stuff (food, drink, forks, knives, and so on) during a very short period of time.

In my own perspective, the behind-the-scene process is not trivial at all, but rather of paramount importance to our ordinary life. Looking at how good my living conditions are right now, I often think of how our campus waste management and recycling is an incredible achievement.

My next question is can we, DePauw students, replicate this very successful model as students, without significant help from faculty members and outside services? For me, the answer is definitely a big yes!

Yet one big challenge that we may face is the shortage of recycling knowledge. How do we separate each kind of reusable materials from a bunch of trash? How do we protect ourselves from contamination? What can we do next if we do not have modern equipment?

Fortunately, Pashon Murray, founder of Detroit Dirt, has given us an important clue when she visited our campus two weeks ago. According to her talk, because we are not professional environmentalists, we should instead focus on the simple idea of regenerating waste into resources that will later benefit the DePauw community.

In this particular way, organic decomposition, a natural mechanism, can help us a lot. And what procedure can be more appropriate for college students than turning food waste into fertilizers, then using them at the University campus farm? This approach to food waste, which is one of the biggest environmental problems nowadays, actually takes very little time and effort.

One of my imaginary effective guidelines would be: First, eat moderately and avoid as many leftovers as possible. If you can’t finish your meal, then carefully wrap your remaining food and take it to a designated place, where it can be kept in favorable temperature for decomposition. The Sustainability Program at our school is still trying to figure out a perfect place.

There would even be simple instructions at the location explaining how to put certain kinds of food in the correct container. And then just wait! Wait until mother nature converts our trash into desired products (fertilizers) for about one week. Next, each of us will be assigned a small cardboard container containing our original waste, now nutritious compounds, that we can confidently bring to DePauw’s campus farm to fertilize different types of crops. Finally, plants and vegetables that we can harvest later from the farm can be safely eaten, and the whole process may begin again.

My proposed strategy, while meticulous, is certainly not plausible at the moment, but I hope it will be in the future. Soon, there will be some special program that can actually let DePauw students participate in the recycling process. Let’s get our hands a little dirty!