Composting FAQs

Q: Which items can and cannot be composted using the Green Cone system?

A: Check out this handy chart!


CompostableNot Compostable
Fruits and vegetables, including peelingsPaper towels and paper products
Tea bagsGarden waste, such as grass cuttings
Coffee groundsCardboard
All cooked food scrapsGrease
Candy, chips, and snack foodsPlastic and styrofoam
Dairy products (no liquids)Popcorn bags
Crushed eggshellsMetal, wood, and fabric
Fish, red meat, poultry, and bonesLiquids
Bread, RiceDisinfectant,bleaches, Sanitary items
Q: Why can’t we compost the paper towel waste from the residence hall bathrooms?

A: Each Green Cone can only handle one gallon of waste each day. If we composted our
paper towels, we would greatly exceed the maximum daily limit, causing the Green Cones to
malfunction. We hope to come up with a way to compost paper towel waste in the near future!


Q: I can compost meat and dairy products? Really?

A: Yes, really. The Green Cone system is specially designed to safely eliminate all cooked
and uncooked food waste, including meat, fish, bones, and dairy products. The composter is a
sealed unit, meaning it will not emit odors or attract pests. Composting meat and dairy products,
therefore, does not pose problems.

Q: Why the Green Cone system? Why can’t we simply add our food waste to the composter used by Bon Appétit?

A: We researched the composting systems used by other schools and concluded that the Green
Cone system would work well at St. Olaf: Green Cones are solar powered, function year-
round, and require little maintenance. Using the Bon Appétit composter is not an option, as it is
already overflowing with food waste from the cafeteria. Another benefit of Green Cones? They
allow students to play a more direct role in the composting process than using the Bon Appétit
composter would.

Q: Why doesn’t every residence hall have a Green Cone?

A: The Green Cones are currently located near first-year residence halls and honor houses. A
group of five students from Environmental Coalition developed and obtained funding for this
program last spring. The 2012-2013 academic year serves as a pilot for the program, as we need
to make sure everything about the system runs smoothly. If all goes well and further funding can
be obtained, we plan to expand to all residence halls and selected academic buildings next year.

Q: Can I participate in the compost program if I do not live in a first-year residence hall or honor house?

A: Yes! All students are welcome to participate in the program. If you do not live in a
first-year residence hall or honor house and are interested in participating, please contact, we will provide you with a compost receptacle for your room. Please
deposit your food waste into your receptacle and empty it periodically into the Green Cone
located closest to your residence hall.

Q: Why is composting in residence halls important?

A: Composting can reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill by up to 20%. This, in turn,
reduces fuel consumed by garbage trucks and energy expended to operate large-scale treatment
plants. According to the EPA, composting organic materials that have been diverted from
landfills ultimately avoids the production of methane and leachate. Composting also provides us
with the opportunity to take back some of the responsibility for our waste. Instead of adhering
to what sociologist Philip Slater calls the “toilet principle of American life” (out of sight, out of
mind), we can instead transform our food waste into soil and return it to Mother Earth, right in
our backyard.

Q: I am interested in getting involved with this project. Who should I contact?

A: That’s great to hear! The Environmental Coalition Compost Subcommittee oversees this
project and is always looking to recruit interested students. Please get in touch with the
committee via email: