Sustainability is a focus at NCSSM year-round, but especially during the month of April -- Earth Month. This year, we share progress on our composting initiatives on campus, and a look at other steps the school has taken to reduce its environmental footprint.
Since NCSSM’s Strategic Plan first identified sustainability as a key campus goal in 2012, the school, including a group of senior student leaders called Sustainability Project Leaders (SPLs), has established a wide range of programs ranging from large-scale recycling to residence hall sustainability competitions.
One area of focus this academic year has been launching a full-fledged composting initiative. “Just by the nature of the type of institution we are -- a residential campus feeding 680 students, as well as many staff members, each day -- our cafeteria generated a good bit of organic waste,” says Linda Schmalbeck, sustainability coordinator and science instructor at NCSSM. “Small groups of students and staff had worked on pilot programs for composting before, but we were never able to tackle composting across the entire campus.”
That all changed last year, with grant funding from the UNC Association of Student Governments. “We were lucky to find CompostNow, a Raleigh-based organization that collects food scraps from residents and businesses and then delivers them to a central industrial-scale facility for composting,” Schmalbeck says. Now, food waste from the cafeteria is composted, with the SPLs and a team of work service students managing the daily composting duties. The resulting compost is used in the Sustainability Courtyard and other garden spaces around campus.
CompostNow also collects data on the compost generated. In the first half of this academic year, NCSSM diverted more than 40,000 pounds of waste from the landfill, producing nearly 10,000 pounds of compost. That is 5,286 pounds of methane avoided, or the equivalent of 393 cars parked for two weeks. And, in case you were wondering, the tomato potential of the soil produced? 20,330 tomatoes!
Originally published April 23, 2018.