This past Wednesday, thirty students gathered for dinner to discuss food waste and the future of residence hall composting. St. Olaf seniors Roz Anderson, Lauren Kramer, Andrew Kaul, and Rachel Pain led the discussion as they were the students who started the residence hall composting.  They spoke about their experience working with administration, and the importance of continuing the push for reduced food waste and residence hall compost after their graduation. Randy Clay made a surprise guest appearance, and also stressed how important it is we keep the momentum building for Clean Plate Campaign and campus compost. In case you couldn’t make it to the event, here is a short overview of what was discussed.

The residence hall composting program is one example of a student idea that became reality. Composting in the first-year residence halls was the result of students’ hard work funded by the CEL’s Social Innovation Grant and an SGA Capital Improvements Grant.

What we’ve learned: Institutional and campus-wide change is possible

Here are some other facts to know about St. Olaf Compost:

  • Next year, the Green Cones (see photo) will be moved to Honor Houses because they are better suited for the quantity of food waste produced there.
  • Green Cones outside first-year residence halls were unable to keep up with the high volume of food waste. (We were not expecting to see uneaten bag lunches!)
  • All food waste from Stav Hall is currently moved to an industrial composter, which unfortunately is over capacity and cannot also handle residence hall food waste.
  • According to Jim Fischer, the St. Olaf Grounds Manager, the quantity of food waste per student has drastically increased over the past 10 years. Cafeteria food waste needs to be reduced by 30% in order for residence hall composting to continue next year.

Why should I care?

  • Instead of adhering to what sociologist Philip Slater calls the “toilet principle of American life” (out of sight, out of mind), composting allows us to transform our food waste into useful soil.
  • According to the EPA, composting organic materials can reduce the amount of landfill waste by 20% and helps avoid the production of methane and leachate.

What can I do?

  • Tell your friends about reducing food waste, take only what you can eat, and join the Clean Plate Campaign!
  • Come to Environmental Coalition meetings on Tuesdays at 8:30pm in BC 222 and help us plan for the future of residence hall composting at St. Olaf.