Washington University Green Ambassadors to expand pilot dorm composting initiative this semester

Emma Baker | News Editor

The Washington University Green Ambassadors program is expanding its pilot composting program to operate in five dorms—Lee and Beaumont Residential College, Nemerov House, Dardick House and Park House—this semester.

The program, funded jointly by the Office of Sustainability and the Student Sustainability Board, was first piloted in Dardick House, a modern residential hall, in spring 2018. Washington University Green Ambassadors (WUGAs) and program co-directors Claire Ji and Alexis Tinoco are excited to see how the program does in both modern and traditional dorm settings.

“Even though this seems like an ambitious goal, we have had a lot of support and expressed interest from students who wish to make a greater impact in the sustainability culture on campus,” Ji and Tinoco wrote in a statement to Student Life. “WUGA started this program with the belief that students’ voices should be heard.”

Currently, composting is available in Bear’s Den and the Village, in addition to composting stations available through the Office of Sustainability for campus programming. This pilot, led by Office of Sustainability student associate senior Cara Cook, aims to expand composting access to residential halls in efforts to reduce food waste across campus.

“I was the team leader for the food waste team this past year, and each team has to do a project during the year that has to do with their topic,” Cook said. “We decided that we wanted to work on compost and see how we can expand it, just because we get a lot of questions about why there isn’t compost in the dorms.”

Office of Sustainability communications intern sophomore Mackenzie Hines-Wilson participated in the program as a Dardick House resident last spring.

“They gave each of us who wanted to participate these little green composting totes that we could keep in our suites. A lot of people put their food in there [and] the to-go boxes,” Hines-Wilson said. “It was really nice and easy to identify where the composting was and I’m glad it was successful enough to go on over the next couple of semesters. ”

In the first phase of the program, 16 composting bags were used by students in their suites. In addition to the individual composting bag, each floor had a composting bin in the trash room.

“When we were sorting through all the waste, we just saw that in total, if we took everything that was in that was in recycling, landfill and compost and put it in one big pile, 44 percent of that was compostable,” Cook said. “We looked at where people were putting their compost and we saw 14 percent of the compostable waste was going into compost, another 14 percent was going into recycling and the other 72 percent was ending up in a landfill.”

According to Tinoco and Ji, one of the issues discovered during the first phase of the pilot was the size of the composting bags. Additionally, more students expressed interest than could participate due to the timing of the pilot, so Trinoco and Ji hope that by holding multiple sign-up dates, more students will be able to participate.

“We already have composting in Bear’s Den, so why not expand it into the dorms? Furthermore, why not use this as an opportunity to educate first-year students about proper waste sorting as they become a part of the [Washington University] community?” Ji and Tinoco wrote.

Ultimately, Ji and Tinoco want to see a residential composting project funded through Residential Life and expanded across the entire South 40.

“We are looking forward to launching our expanded program early in the fall semester,” Ji and Tinoco said. “Students should look out for an interest form if they would like to opt into this exciting program and become the driving force behind change on campus.”

Correction: This article initially identified the group piloting the program as Washington University’s Green Action club, and has been corrected to reflect that it was started by Washington University’s Green Ambassadors through the Office of Sustainability.

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