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Sustainability Initiatives: Composting on Campus

Brandeis’ composting efforts have grown, according to Manager for Sustainability Programs Mary Fischer.

Composting involves using food scraps and other biodegradable waste to fertilize soil. In other words, it is reusing the waste and debris that otherwise would go to a dump to improve the ground and potentially serve as energy sources. Composting works well when the whole Brandeis community together makes an effort to recycle trash in the appropriate bins, according to Mary Fischer.

Composting is not new to Brandeis. It began last year when Fischer set a goal to reduce waste by 40 percent by the end of 2016.

“We are doing very well on composting. After relaunching our composting initiative, our composting rates just shot up,” Fischer said. She also mentioned that Brandeis is starting a composting competition between the kitchens in Usdan and Sherman dining halls to boost the recycling and composting for both locations.

In fact, both Sherman and Usdan dining halls have seen a significant increase in their respective composting rates. Since January 2016, when it was composting 24 percent of discarded food, Sherman Dining Hall is now composting at a rate of 37 percent, recorded in October. Similarly, Usdan has seen an increase in composting from 21 percent in January to 40 percent this October.

Both dining halls have also excelled in their recycling rates, meaning the amount of total waste that is recycled instead of thrown away. Since January, Sherman dining hall has had a recycling rate between 19 percent and 34 percent. Similarly, Usdan has increased its recycling rates from 22 percent to 45 percent since January.

The dining halls tend to have much higher rates of recycling and composting than the other buildings on campus, according to Fischer. There are composting bins in the kitchens, in Upper Usdan and various other locations on campus. These bins are very helpful because before, compostable waste would be put in non-compostable bags, which was inefficient. The bags used are made out of corn, so when they are thrown away the bags are easily biodegradable.

Fischer has also promised to continue using bright signage outside of the dining halls and other eating areas. This is in an effort to better educate Brandeis students as well as to increase the composting and recycling rates on campus.

Composting matters for many reasons, and especially for Brandeis students who want to make a difference in the environmental health of their university. “I think that composting is the underutilized resource,” said Alex Mitchell ’17. Mitchell went on to add that composting is a very easy way to make an impact in the school’s environmental footprint.

Some students may feel that composting is not a very efficient way to combat serious environmental problems. However, Mitchell responded, “I think that composting is not going to change the world overnight. However, composting helps to save money.” The savings come from the fact that the costs associated with disposing compost are much lower than those of non-compostable waste. In turn, these additional funds can be used towards other potential initiatives.

As for the benefits of composting, “It’s a win-win situation. If you are sustainable, then in the long run, we can save money for Brandeis,” said Mitchell.

All students at Brandeis are highly encouraged to be mindful of how they dispose of waste on campus. All dining halls have concrete trash cans for specific items of food or beverage. Make sure to put your trash in the right place, because one simple drop in the bin can mean more money for the entire university, as poorly sorted trash can contaminate the bins and prevent the other recyclables from being recycled.

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