Compost collection: St. Kate’s becomes a more eco-friendly university

After a long year of meetings, going over contracts, meeting with potential compost companies, and viewing other schools’ compost programs, St. Kate’s will become a more eco-friendly university. A new organic compost program has begun, and compost bins will be put all around campus by the end of the fall semester.

The Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) has been working on creating a compost program for years, which was finally put into action through the collaboration of the MPIRG Environment Justice Taskforce, St. Kate’s Green Party, St. Kate’s Student Senate Environmental Taskforce, and St. Kate’s Food and Justice Coalition.

“Getting an organic compost program makes sense in almost every aspect for St. Kate’s. Republic (St. Kate’s current waste service company) taxes waste and not organic objects. About 70 percent of the items that get trashed on a daily basis can be composted. Composting will help save our school a lot of money in the long run,” said EJ La Valle ’15, who is the MPIRG State Board Representative for the St. Kate’s chapter.

In addition to helping St. Kate’s save money, having an organic compost program will provide excellent fertilizer to the college’s lawn and garden as well as reduce the number of garbage bags sent to the landfill. Composting also aligns with St. Kate’s sustainable mission.

“Composting is in line with [St. Kate’s] mission and the Sisters of St. Joseph’s mission since they already have an organic composting program. From a public relations perspective, St. Kate’s having an organic compost program will also look great for prospective students,” La Valle said.

The plan is to implement the program in three different phases. Phase I involves putting compost bins in the dining center. Phase II involves adding compost bins throughout the Coeur de Catherine, and Phase III includes adding compost bins to the entire St. Kate’s campus.

“Working with the representatives from the Chamber of Commerce has really helped put this plan into motion. They’ve helped us get grants to pay for this program and also get bags and bins for when the program starts,” said La Valle.

Joshua Haringa, Assistant Professor of Communications Studies and Faculty Advisor of the Food and Justice Coalition program, has also been helpful throughout the process. He made sure that these groups were talking to the right people to make the compost dream happen. He also attended weekly Saturday meetings and reached out to St. Kate’s faculty and administration to make sure they understood that this was a joint effort between faculty and students.

“I’m hopeful that bringing composting to our campus will help engender a more robust conversation concerning consumption and waste. I’m hoping that the simple act of separating our waste will provide an opportunity to reflect upon how we consume and discard in our culture,” Haringa said.

Once the program starts, these groups plan on having a food-scraping event during which people will stand next to the bins and explain how composting works. Although the exact dates are yet to be determined, the composting group will be collaborating closely with Sodexo to make sure word gets out through flyers, banners, and tabling. Sodexo workers will also be trained so they understand the sorting process for the compost bins.

If students are interested in learning about how composting works, Haringa teaches a “Food and Public Rhetoric” class that goes over the composting process. In addition, Earth Partners, the Sisters of St. Joseph’s coalition, are always looking for environmental representatives.

Stacy can be reached at stdahl@stkate.edu.

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