Volume 78, Issue 7
October 27, 2006

Campus Composting Picks Up Pace

Elm Staff Writer

The George Goes Green Campaign is creating a big, disgusting pile of old and rotting food behind Buildings and Grounds.

And that is good for Washington College.

The one area where the Committee of Sustainability and the Student Environmental Alliance, working together on the George Goes Green Campaign, seem to be having great success is in making compost.

"[The SEA and Committee of Sustainability] are trying to work together to make an effective change for this campus," said Emily Richardson, President of the SEA.

When the George Goes Green campaign started, the committee emphasized reducing the use of energy in each of the dorms.

They had a competition to see which dorm could decrease their energy usage the most.


Now the campaign includes the entire sustainability movement taking place on campus, including recycling, energy and compost.

"Composting has been the most successful, long lasting and most visible [effort from the campaign]," said Shannon Holste, Sustainability Intern.

"But educating students to use the [compost bucket] and realize it's there is the biggest challenge," continued Holste.

The compost pile is behind Buildings and Grounds, back against the woods and is on recycled pallets.

As it decomposes slowly, you can still make out some things you might have eaten last week, like banana peels and pieces of bread.

The compost maintains a temperature of about 130 degrees internally, so the pile needs to be turned on a regular basis. Student volunteers from the SEA turn the compost pile weekly.

Chris Rainer, the groundskeeper in charge of maintaining the compost, usually also turns it one other time during the week, depending on how much there is and the weather is warm.

They also do soil tests to get data every Friday. It takes a little less than a year for the compost pile to turn into fertilizer and if you look for signs around campus, you will see the compost from last year's pile fertilizing flowers, for example, in back of Smith next to the OIT entrance.

The campaign also pushes for Dining Services to buy local produce, because it is fresher and is less wasteful, said Holste.

Dining Services is buying from places like Colchester Farm and a co-op in southern Pennsylvania which provides a great variety of organically grown vegetables.

The Dining Hall will also be putting out signs indicating which foods were made using local produce.

The SEA is planning on doing more advertising about the campaign, and the Committee of Sustainability is working on a timeline for the WC website, showing the cycle of the food being turned into compost. That compost will be mixed with soil to help plants grow around the campus.

"The progress so far has been very positive, and we'd like to work with Dining Services to reduce waste in other ways, like addressing the continued use of non-degradable take-out containers," said Holste.

"At other colleges it's been proved that even moving take-out cups away from high-traffic areas are enough to reduce waste enormously, and we'd like to see these changes made here."