Centre recently received a substantial award from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will allow the College and its community to live in a more environmentally responsible way.
Starting next fall, the $24,998 grant from the EPA will be used in a project called “Centre Composts: Nutrient Cycles on Campus and in the Curricula.” Compost—organic matter that has decomposed and is reused as a fertilizer or to improve soil—will be made from all pre- and post-consumer waste from Cowan Dining Hall, and will be used to landscape and garden across campus and throughout the community.
“The estimated benefits of the program include: the diversion of 80,000 tons of food waste from the landfill each academic year; $6,228 in cost savings each year—from garbage hauling and tipping fees, reduced fertilizer and mulch costs; and reduced greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 50 tons of CO2 each year—associated with fertilizer replacement, reduced travel to the landfill and reduced methane emissions from the landfill,” says Cindy Isenhour, ACS Post-Doctoral Fellow in Environmental Studies.
Those involved with implementing the composting program are also looking to improve awareness about environmental issues both in Centre classrooms, as well as in the local community. Faculty will discuss how to integrate sustainability into the curriculum at a pedagogy luncheon, and faculty stipends will also be available through the EPA grant to be used in the development of course modules on waste and how to reduce it, composting and nutrient cycles.
To bring awareness to the community, Centre will partner with local organizations to offer outreach programs, a community composting workshop and free compost giveaways from the compost made from waste from Cowan.
Funds from the EPA grant will also be used to improve Centre’s capacity for sustainability initiatives by establishing work study jobs specifically for sustainability efforts, as well as a rotating project coordinator who will develop promotional materials and proposals for continuous sustainability projects in the future.
The motivation behind working toward the EPA grant began with students.
“This project really grew out of the passion of Club Compost, a group of students who have been working on ideas for nutrient cycling since last winter,” Isenhour says. “More than 20 students have worked on this project in some capacity or another. Ella Williams ’15 and Alex Seither ’15 spent a good amount of time this summer doing a cost-benefit analysis of the system as an independent study with Dr. Mike Fabritius and me. They did a lot of work to make this award possible.”
Seither and Williams both became interested and involved in the composting project after taking a CentreTerm course with Isenhour called “Consumerism, Globalization and the Environment.”
“This class broadened my view of the world and provided me with a new passion for protecting the environment,” Seither says. “After class, Dr. Isenhour presented the idea of researching the possibility of starting a composting program here on Centre’s campus to both Ella and me. We both were quick to accept the offer.”
“As an economics major, it was a great opportunity,” Williams says.
“By starting a composting program with this EPA grant, all the extra food from Cowan will actually be put to good use,” Seither says. “This food will be turned into composting and will ultimately save money on reduced mulch and fertilizer, and will help the environment.”
The two students are excited about the EPA grant because of the positive impact it will have on Centre and beyond.
“Composting on our campus is important to me because college campuses are a great way to start larger movements toward sustainability,” Williams says. “Other colleges can look at our system and potentially adopt a similar one. Also, environmentally sustainable systems save money for the college and save wildlife habitats that would otherwise be used for landfill space.”
By Elizabeth Trollinger