Composting on campus could help university be sustainable

For a university with a sustainable cafeteria, we’re not as concerned with what happens with the leftovers.

St. Edward’s University recently had the privilege of hosting Diana Liverman, the co-director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona.

Liverman spoke at the Kozmetsky Center about the impact of climate change and adaptation. I learned valuable information about carbon offsetting and the irreversible impact created by greenhouse gas emissions. Liverman also pointed out the absence of composting and adequate recycling on our campus.

Since her lecture, I have been motivated to take action and become more responsible for my impact on the environment. I believe that if St. Edward’s started a waste reduction program, it would reflect a stronger commitment to sustainability and inspire students to be more environmentally conscious in their everyday lives.

The Environmental Club on campus is working toward creating a “green fee,” which would provide funding to pay for more recycling, composting and other sustainability projects. I too would like to see our campus begin a composting project.

Contrary to popular belief, compost is not just a heap of garbage. For example, vermicomposting, as described by the Environmental Protection Agency, uses worms which break down food waste and eat the microbes that are responsible for causing bacteria and foul-smelling odors. The soil created by vermicompost, known as castings, is packed with nutrients and minerals, making it a great fertilizer.

Composting also reduces the amount of food that is sent to landfills, reducing the emissions of methane that the food waste generates. Such a project on campus could use mostly cafeteria waste and occasional coffee grounds from the coffee shop, and this nutrient-dense fertilizer could be applied to many new and existing plants and trees on campus, without having to use toxic chemical fertilizers.

Composting is a free method of reducing waste, and that is why other schools, such as the University of Arizona, Trinity University and Southwestern University, are already composting.

I believe our campus should follow Liverman’s message and become more accountable for climate change. Composting is just one feasible solution and, with some effort, it can become a reality. A student-run project shows we are capable of organizing and taking leadership for what we care about.

If St. Edward’s were to start a composting project, it would express to prospective students that our university is sustainable. In the future, the compost could support a garden on campus to supplement the cafeteria or to donate food within our community.

St. Edward’s is part of one of the most environmentally-friendly cities in the country, and our university does a lot to educate students on the need to become more sustainable. Composting and focusing on waste reduction on campus could serve as the next logical step toward a goal of reducing our carbon footprint and creating a better place to learn.