In 2009 Olin College decided to initiate a composting program to see if it could reduce its waste stream. The idea was to start small and create a model that could increase in size as organizers worked out the kinks in the program. The program was successful in first year and captured some two tons of food waste. This fall, Olin has already composted more than all of last year and is on pace to compost over 9,000 lbs by the end of the academic year.
Olin’s composting project is spearheaded by Nick Tatar in the Office of Student Life. Working with dining hall staff and students, Olin’s composting program collects fruit and vegetable scraps from the food preparation area of the College’s kitchen. Using five gallon buckets, Olin’s dining staff collects items such as carrot peels, melon rind, and pineapple tops. Using a schedule that is set-up at the start of the semester, students then weigh and pick-up the buckets every afternoon from the kitchen. Using a small wagon students can efficiently carry up to six five-gallon containers of compost every day. These buckets (which weigh around fifteen pounds on average) are then taken down to a small garden where worms are used to break down the food waste (known as vermicomposting). In turn, this dirt is used to fertilize ten raised garden beds that are used to grow fruits and vegetables that available for students, faculty, and staff to take home at no charge.
This program is easy to replicate at home and in small businesses. The idea is to start small and do a little every day. The program at Olin currently collects around seventy pounds a day. While this might sound like a small amount, it adds up fast to make a big difference!