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This semester, residents at the Maple B residence hall ventured into the world of composting – the decomposition of organic materials into a rich soil that can be used to fertilize plants and gardens.
The bins are kept inside, tended by students, and worms break down their food waste into fertilizer.
Susana Alvarado, Maple B’s resident assistant, brought composting to the residence hall this semester after researching it for a group project in the spring. The Green Living and Learning community (LLC) was created a year ago but has thrived this fall with Alvarado as the RA.
“Composting does basically the same thing recycling would do,” Alvarado said. “It’s to reduce waste and prevent it from being dumped in landfills and have no use.”
The bins, essentially black, plastic barrels, are self-contained ecosystems consisting of several layers of trays. The first tray houses soil with thousands of tiny red worms. The second tray is where the food goes. This can be any sort of fruit or vegetable, as well as food waste like egg shells and coffee grounds.
A common misconception about compost is that it smells. But inside the halls, the composting bins are kept clear of meat and dairy products which rot and sour. If someone complains of any odor, the worms are given a feed of crushed volcanic rock that neutralizes the smell.
Green LLC academic advisor, Robert Brinkmann, believes that composting is a part of the broader sustainability trend in this country and that people should question their consumption and the ethics of throwing garbage into landfills.
“Composting provides a way for us to get rid of waste so that it doesn’t end up in landfills,” Brinkmann said. ‘I compost at home and the worms eat all my old bills, newspapers and food waste.”
Maple B residents are writing up a proposal to housing and grounds for the spring that will allow them to plant a garden in front of the residence hall. A vegetable or butterfly garden would be easy for students to tend to and the fertilizer from the compost bins will be used to help the plants grow.
If the proposal does not go through, there are plenty of plants around campus that could benefit from the fertilizer, Brinkmann said. Other options being considered is a partnership with the Business LLC to sell the fertilizer and donating it to the botanical gardens.
Aside from the garden, low-flow shower heads will be installed in the hall in the spring to conserve water. The Green LLC has also recently started a partnership with Universal Yarn, a North Carolina company that is donating organic yarn to the residents to learn how to knit and crochet their own clothing.
The Green Living and Learning community is also a participant in Recyclemania, ConservaBull and numerous sustainability projects around campus.