Northwestern student organizations begin plans for off-campus composting service

Rebecca Savransky, Assistant Campus Editor

A combined effort of members from various environmental organizations may give off-campus students the opportunity to participate in a composting trial program.

Associated Student Government’s Sustainability Committee, Engineers for a Sustainable World and other student groups sent out a survey to various email lists and social media last week to gauge off-campus student interest in the service.

Weinberg senior Wesley Lien, ASG associate vice president of sustainability, said he communicated with other leaders of sustainability groups to discuss the possibility of off-campus composting.

“We identified off-campus composting as an area that would make a huge impact,” Lien said. “It was a really good idea because we already had composting on campus.”

The trial program will likely begin this spring, Lien said. He said he has been working in collaboration with composting company Collective Resource, Inc. to arrange for delivery and pickup of compost materials. Those who take part in the trial may be charged for compost pickups, Lien said.

He offered the NU sustainability fund and the Senate Project Pool as possible funding options to eliminate this cost for students. The survey also included a question asking how much students would be willing to pay to participate in the program.

McCormick junior Rachel Scholes, co-president of Engineers for a Sustainable World, said the groups are looking for about 50 students to participate in the trial to experiment with the service and measure its efficiency. She said members of her organization began looking into composting options for Evanston residents in fall 2011, and just recently began specifically targeting off-campus students.

“We were essentially just evaluating the work of the city of Evanston,” Scholes said. “The ESW project was actually before the dining hall composting was happening on campus, but I think it became more feasible for us to look over the student composting effort when the University decided it would support that.”

Scholes said the groups are currently trying to raise awareness of the opportunity around campus.

“We hope all students living off campus know about this option and feel able to participate and as many students off campus will participate,” she said.

She said they do not plan to establish full off-campus student participation in the program because if students are not interested and the composting is not done correctly, it will end up being counterproductive. In the long term, Scholes said she hopes the University will approach the responsibility of collecting and disposing off-campus waste in the same way the on-campus composting service works.

Though this is primarily a student effort, members of involved organizations are also working with the Office of Sustainability to receive guidance, Scholes said.

Julie Cahillane, Facilities Management’s manager of refuse and recycling, said the off-campus composting service will be  separate from the on-campus one seen in the dining halls.

Scholes said she hopes the service will be beneficial to students and has received positive feedback about the idea.

“I think that an off-campus composting service would really serve students who want to live more sustainably,” she said. “They’re making a contribution to landfills right now because they have no options to dispose of their food waste more sustainably.”

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Twitter: @beccasavransky