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Saint Mary’s dining hall introduces new composting initiative

| Friday, September 29, 2017

Saint Mary’s students may have noticed new yellow bins next to the tray return area in the dining hall. These bins are part of a new composting initiative that encourages students to dump their biodegradable waste in them so it can be composted rather than thrown in the trash.

Senior and composting coordinator Katie Frego said this is not the first time composting has been tried on campus.

“We have had composting in the past, but very [briefly],” she said. “Someone had made a compost bin last year, but the bin filled up so fast and there was nowhere else to put the compost.”

When the College purchased an acre of farmland from the Sisters of the Holy Cross this past spring, however, Frego said she saw an opportunity to bring back composting.

“That was the turning point for composting to truly begin,” she said. “Because we finally had an area where we could dump the compost and not have to worry about running out of space or the smell or anything like that.”

The composting initiative is student driven. Sodexo, the College’s dining service, just gives the space for the composting bins, general manager of dining services Ken Acosta said.

“We promote it and say let’s go, let’s do it as long as it is student-driven,” he said.

Frego said she became involved with the project because of her passion for sustainability and her connections across campus.

“I’ve always been very passionate about the environment, and I’ve been working in the dining hall since freshman year,” she said. “And through that, I’ve been able to see the amount of waste that is generated by the dining hall just in one day. As a biology major, having connections with professors in the biology department and also knowing the managers in the dining hall, it was no brainer for me. I hate seeing all this waste that could be composted and used for making new soil just thrown in the trash.”

Frego believes that composting is important so that Earth is preserved for future generations, she said.

“It is beneficial because we know that climate change does exist, our responsibility as students in college nowadays — and especially living in a country like the United States where we are so thankful for the blessings it gives us — that I think it is our responsibility to do our part in helping the Earth and making it more sustainable for future generations,” she said. “We are able to enjoy the beauty of this Earth, but if we don’t respect it and take care it, then generations down the road may not have the same opportunity that we do.”

The composting system has only been implemented for a couple of weeks, but Frego said the results so far have been great.

“In the first week we saved over 500 pounds of waste,” she said. “After the second week we were over 500 pounds again. The student body has been really receptive to it. Everyone has been really impressed with how smooth this process is going so far.”

Even with the great results, however, there still have been some challenges in educating the student body, Frego said.

“The toughest challenge is still educating the students on what can be thrown in the bins and what can’t be thrown in the bins,” she said. “Even spreading awareness that composting is now happening on [the] Saint Mary’s campus. The toughest challenge is how to communicate to the students that we are composting and this is a daily thing that will be happening for the rest of the year.”

Ultimately, Frego just wants to get the message across that the small action of composting can have an impact.

“I really want to get this message across to Saint Mary’s students that throwing away those three watermelon rinds that you would have put in the trash really, actually, truly makes a difference,” she said.

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