As the University of Rhode Island make strides to become a more green campus, one of the issues that groups on campus are tackling is composting.
Composting involves recycling decomposed organic materials into soil that will return nutrients into the ground, reducing waste and improving the quality of land and plants.
“We do some composting here at URI, but we really haven’t touched the surface of food scraps,” Vanessa Garcia, president of Student Action for Sustainability (SAS) and education and outreach intern at the Outreach Center said.
This will change soon, however. This week, Governor Chafee will be signing a bill that will require every institution in Rhode Island producing more than a ton of food scraps per week to compost.
According to Garcia, they currently have a digester at Hope Commons, which is an enclosed container that can compost not only organic materials but also napkins and “almost everything that is left on your plate.”
Soon, with this new law, the university will be required to send this waste to a composting corporation. “The bill signing is taking place at Earth Care Farm, a large-scale composting facility that is just miles from URI and the only facility that is permitted to take in food scraps,” Garcia said.
Garcia said there are a lot of logistics involved in starting a composting program. The university would have to hire a special compost company. She said that some farmers are developing small companies that collect waste, compost it and bring back the soil.
According to Garcia, the compost will be used for landscapes, in the Botanical Gardens and on the university’s two farms. “East Farm is really important for us because that’s where we do our demos,” she said.
Garcia said that composting is important because it is a natural process. “It’s logical to compost,” she said. “It doesn’t make any sense to send food scraps to the landfill when they can be composted.” She also states that about 40 percent of our food scraps end up in the landfill. The Johnston Landfill is expected to reach capacity in 17 to 25 years, which means the state of Rhode Island will have to find a new place to put its waste. Garcia said that if we can prevent that 40 percent of food scraps from going to the landfill, we could avoid this consequence.
Garcia hopes that more students will get involved. SAS is a student organization that teaches people about environmentally sustainable practices. Additionally, the Outreach Center aims to use their knowledge and research to show the community how they can apply these practices to their own lives, teaching them about everything from growing their own food to composting and recycling.
“I feel more people should [compost], they just need to be informed and that’s my job here,” said Garcia, “to let people know that we offer this training and these workshops that teach you how to compost.”
There is also an Agriculture Club on campus which hosts workshops, does farm visits and “all sorts of things that are developing our own skills,” said Lauren Breene, plant science major and vice president of the club. In the past, the group has done workshops in poultry production and beekeeping, among others. On October 15, they will be hosting a composting workshop from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Greenhouse.
The Outreach Center will also be hosting a workshop on October 18 at their office on East Alumni Ave. At this workshop, they will be teaching people how to compost with worms and how to compost in a small backyard setting or in a large-scale compost operation.