OPINION: Composting—We can do it

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Ashley Junger is a junior English literature
and biology double major from St. Louis.
Junger is also an Environmental Fellow. 
CHRISTA SCHRODEL / THE DEPAUW

When you imagine trash, you most likely imagine piles of plastic containers, crumpled paper, scraps and pieces, banana peels, etc. It turns out that, that banana peel makes up about 24% of our trash according to the EPA. Therefore, reducing waste isn’t as simple as recycling; DePauw must also address its organic waste to become a zero waste campus.

To compost one simply collects a pile of organic matter, usually a mix of brown and green matter. Brown matter is high in carbon and includes bark, cardboard, leaves, newspapers, etc., green matter is high in nitrogen and includes food waste, garden waste, hay, algae, etc. Once you have a heap, you simply have to turn the pile every week or two to aerate it and blend it. After a few months the composting process will be complete, and you will be left with a dark, crumbly soil that can be used as fertilizer.

Approximately two years ago, DePauw’s Earth Tub, an electronic composter, broke and fell into disrepair. Since then there has been no post-consumer composting at DePauw. The Earth Tub broke because the volume of composting it processed was too great. Therefore, simply fixing DePauw’s Earth Tub is not a viable way to bring composting back to DePauw.

DePauw is trying to set itself apart from other similar liberal arts colleges as one that is concerned with the environment, as evidenced by President Casey signing The American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2008 and the theme for the 2014 - 2015 school year, “Zer0 Waste.” Implementing a composting system is an opportunity for DePauw to become a leader among other small colleges, a golden model for others to visit and base their own composting programs off of.

It is also an opportunity for DePauw to tangibly demonstrate its commitment to sustainability. The investment DePauw would need to put into a composting system would be relatively low, yet its significance and return would be high. Composting would save the campus money in the long run because we could start producing our own fertilizer, and avoid buying commercial fertilizer for DePauw’s farm or gardens. The composting program would be a symbol for prospective students and investors that DePauw is committed to sustainability and to being a forerunner in the implementation of sustainable practices.

DePauw needs a way for all of its organic waste to be processed. The system should be established so its functioning is not threated by a shift in food service providers. DePauw need to recognize the importance of a composting system to its goal of zero waste, and begin to implement a system that becomes integral to DePauw’s functioning. 

Composting: We Can Do it!