Composting comes to Straz dining hall

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by Joseph Kaiser

This September, the Straz Tower dining hall became the first on campus to begin a composting program that founders say has been impressively successful thus far.

Marquette’s Students for an Environmentally Active Campus (SEAC) teamed up with the organization Kompost Kids and food service company Sodexo to start the program, which looks to turn vegetation into soil.

SEAC president Taylor Behnke, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said the project got off to an unexpected start.

“We were talking about how we’d like to see composting here,” Behnke said. “We just did a Google search and found Kompost Kids and started talking to them this fall.”

The program features two bins at the Straz dining hall, one located near the salad area and another in the kitchen. According to Kompost Kids president Melissa Tashjian, the bins, collected twice a week, gather both pre-consumed vegetable trimmings and spoiled vegetation. She also noted that it takes about 1,000 pounds of vegetation to create one yard of soil.

“Straz is probably producing 100 pounds of vegetation waste per week,” Tashjian said. “Right now we are generating about a yard of compost from Straz per two months.”

In the short period since the program began, Behnke said it has already been very beneficial to the community.

“There are definitely benefits already,” Behnke said. “Compost is usually expensive, and this is going to a lot of Milwaukee area gardeners.”

Marquette sustainability officer Mike Whittow, who helped bring both groups together to create the program, is also impressed so far.

“I think it’s an outstanding program,” Whittow said.

Both SEAC and Kompost Kids hope to expand composting programs to other areas on campus.

“There are definitely plans to move this to other dining halls,” Tashjian said. “We started with Straz because it is the least busy, but our goal is to add another dining hall next year. Hopefully in the next couple of years all the dining halls will be equipped with composting efforts.”

Though possibly an uphill battle, SEAC sees expansion as a potential way for Marquette to get its own compost pile and reap some of the benefits for the school.

“The biggest challenge is to expand it to eventually get all the dining halls and Brews composted,” Behnke said. “But I think a benefit in the future is if we get our own compost pile, the soil will go directly back to Marquette.”

Whittow said getting a compost pile at Marquette could be a difficult and long process, but acknowledged it is a goal worth striving for.

“(Getting a compost pile on campus) is more of a long-term goal,” Whittow said. “You need to get an ordinance, and Milwaukee needs to relax its ordinance policy. But part of being a sustainability officer is to help projects like this by getting the real people together to help the project succeed. I don’t want to stop working until we have the best possible project we can here.”

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