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SMC dining hall reboots composting program

| Friday, February 17, 2017

Since Feb. 8, yellow bins have sat next to the tray disposal area, where students can drop their napkins, food scraps, condiment cups and other compostable items in Saint Mary’s Noble Family Dining Hall as part of a new composting program.

A sign next to the bins outlines what can and cannot be composted, and on the first few days the bins were in use, students involved in the program sat next to the bins to educate their peers on the importance of composting.

Student groups Saint Mary’s Environmental Action Coalition (SMEAC) and Sustainability SMC implemented the initiative.

“Composting was one of the main goals that Sustainably SMC tried to accomplish this school year,” Sustainability SMC co-president Kristhel Torre said. “The need to spread knowledge and procreate positive change drove this mission.”

SMEAC president Mikhala Kaseweter, who studies sociology and also has a self-designed environmental studies major, said other students started a composting program in the dining hall two years ago, but it died out after they graduated. The goal of the clubs was to restart the program and make it permanent.

Kaseweter said the process was difficult, and that they have worked on implementing the program for the entire year. Kaseweter said Judith Fean, Saint Mary’s vice president for mission, guided her through the process. Kenneth Acosta, head of dining services, was also helpful.

“He provided the bins, table, information signs and a set of wheels,” Carolyn Arcuri, the other co-president of Sustainability SMC, said. “That’s right, a golf cart.”

Initially, students dumped food waste into the woods, but now there is a bin near the College campus, which is what the golf cart is for. Students take food waste to the bin at the end of each day.

“Carrying out the composting is quite the chore, but students have been very enthusiastic, so we hope to recruit more helpers,” Arcuri said.

Kaseweter said the groups hope to build a farm on campus in the next few years.

“Ideally we’ll make a more permanent bin when we get the farm,” she said.

The composted waste will help provide nourishment for the upcoming campus farm, and according to Arcuri, it is currently helping to fertilize the campus Community Gardens.

Kaseweter believes composting is important for the community at large.

“It makes sense from a practical standpoint, aside from any environmental needs, because it recycles the nutrients while also eliminating waste,” Kaseweter said.

According to Kaseweter, composting also reduces landfill waste. Instead, waste can be turned into rich humus that feeds plants.

The presidents sit by the composting bins to help students learn about the program.

“We hope that the students can adjust and fully participate in this sustainable practice,” Torre said.

Kaseweter said she was excited about students’ enthusiasm.

“When I’m at the bins and directing students, so many people thank me for starting this and say they’re excited about it,” she said. “Random students even ask me how they can also get involved.”

Arcuri said she was surprised at how little students knew about composting before the initiative, but happy that they have shown interest in learning more.

“Surprisingly, many students did not know you cannot compost plastic, but that is why we sit at the bins,” Arcuri said. “Sitting there, I realized how many people were into sustainable practices. It was obvious that girls cared about the environment and were happy to help. The only thing the community is lacking is convenience.”

Sustainability SMC co-presidents Torre and Arcuri are juniors, so they will be available to continue the program into next year, and said they believe the enthusiasm of the students will help it last even beyond their graduation.

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