Sustainability Day to launch compost program

| October 22, 2013

Sweet Briar and its dining service provider, ARAMARK, will mark Campus Sustainability Day 2013 on Wednesday, Oct. 23, by kicking off a pilot composting initiative during lunch at Prothro. From 11:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, diners will be asked to dispose of food waste in designated containers for collection.

Assistant professor of environmental science Tom O’Halloran says it’s the next step in planning for a large-scale compost production enterprise that he hopes to propose in the near future. As in past short-term trial periods, O’Halloran and his students will analyze the food waste to glean data such as its chemical make-up and weight to determine its suitability for a sustainable composting program on campus. Preliminary data and cost analysis by environmental science and business students have shown promise, he says.

This composter is on display in the Prothro atrium for the moment, but should be cooking soon.

Following this trial, O’Halloran wants to begin small-scale production using a small composter as a precursor to the expanded operation, should it be approved and if funding is found. The composter, which is on display in Prothro this week, was purchased with Honors Program funding by Madeline Artibee ’16, who wrote the grant as part of her honors variant in O’Halloran’s Introduction to Environmental Issues course.

Other ways the community will note Campus Sustainability Day include a meat-free lunch menu and specially featured apples and cider from Virginia orchards. A representative from Produce Source of Roanoke will be on hand to talk about the orchards and other Virginia farms they work with to supply Sweet Briar.

Ebi Zahabi, director of dining services, says ARAMARK is always looking for ways to promote sustainable practices, and he and his staff strive to buy produce from Virginia farms within 200 miles of campus.

Launched in 2003, Campus Sustainability Day is organized or endorsed by a number of organizations, including the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, Association of American Colleges and Universities, Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium, National Wildlife Federation, Second Nature and Society for College and University Planning.

Each October, colleges and universities are encouraged to create events on campus and elsewhere that draw participants for the exchange of ideas and knowledge among faculty, staff and students, from across all departments and disciplines. CSD is held annually on the fourth Wednesday in October.

This year’s theme is “Climate Adaptation: Resilient Campuses & Communities.”

Jennifer McManamay

Category: Environmental Science