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Campus composting options offer opportunities for everyday sustainability

A survey from IU South Bend’s Center for a Sustainable Future (CSF) revealed that one in four students is food insecure. Feeding America further claims that 40 percent of all food is wasted. 

By: Madi Bandera

Guest Contributor

A survey from IU South Bend’s Center for a Sustainable Future (CSF) revealed that one in four students is food insecure. Feeding America further claims that 40 percent of all food is wasted. 

Composting is an easy, inexpensive solution to both problems. It is the natural process of recycling organic matter, like food and yard waste, into fertilizer. 

These items can be composted:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Lawn clippings, dry leaves and plant stalks
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Paper towels and paper bags
  • Eggshells and nutshells

These items should not be composted:

  • Meat scraps
  • Bones 
  • Fats and oils
  • Aluminum or other glossy paper
  • Animal waste

Composting Methods:

  • Backyard piles
  • Bins
  • Tumblers

Modern technology makes knowing what to compost at home easier. 

“You can ask Alexa, ‘Can I compost eggshells? Yes, you can,” Eddie Forero, IU South Bend graduate student, said. Forero interns for the CSF and is spearheading the campus’ composting project. 

Individuals can decide which method to use depending on preference and space availability. Backyard piles are often the easiest option, and CSF Director Zachary Schrank uses one himself; he has been dumping food scraps in a designated spot between his shed and fence for a decade.

“I don’t even think of it as a chore,” Schrank said. “It does not consume much of my time. I bet I spend one to two minutes a week thinking about composting.”

Those without a yard or ample outdoor space can use bins instead of piles. These bins can be placed indoors or outdoors, and can be purchased ready to use or made at home. However, most store-bought bins have open bottoms and are susceptible to critters.

​​Tumblers are fully sealed containers that are rotated to mix the composting material. They vary in price and design.

“If you have a bunch of stuff and it’s not covered… then it’s going to smell and attract animals,” Schrank said. “Tumblers just contain everything, so you don’t have to worry about raccoons or other animals digging through your scraps.”

IU South Bend has tumblers and buns, but the campus composting project is still a work in progress. 

“The program involves a process of bin and tumbler location selection, community training and persistent refinement, which is being done through continual monitoring and feedback,” Forero said. 

Leadership changes and COVID-19 halted composting efforts. Schrank recently succeeded former CSF director Krista Bailey and claims the pandemic disconnected previous sustainability students from current ones. 

“So much of what we do depends on those juniors and seniors showing the freshmen and sophomores, ‘Hey, here’s what we’ve been working on,’” he said. “But that was put on pause for three years because of the pandemic.”

“We are still finding our footing,” CSF newcomer Christina Camp added.

So, what should you do if you’re interested in composting?

Bins are located inside the University Grill for students to use, and tumblers are found on the west side of the Schurz Library.

For those living in student housing, containers are available for residents to deposit their food scraps and transfer them to compost bins on campus. Students can also bring scraps from home if they do not have a yard.

Any amount of composting is beneficial, so don’t be afraid to start small.

“You avert food waste, which then you repurpose to become soil for anything that grows, [such as] flowers and vegetables, which then grows more vegetables, which then you can use again for compost,” CSF member Diana Zebrosky said. “It’s like the circle of life, in a way.”

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