Composting Program Launched in Lower Debot
Kyle stands next to the compost bins in Lower Debot.

Composting Program Launched in Lower Debot

At the start of the fall semester, a composting program that began as a class project became part of the structure in Lower Debot.

Amanda Kyle, biology senior, devised the project for Dr. Rebecca Franzen’s environmental issue investigation and action course in spring of 2015. She will receive the Wisconsin Association for Outdoor Education’s Student of the Year award in October for her efforts.

Kyle said she chose to investigate composting food scraps because she has been a student manager at Lower Debot for three years and saw huge amounts of food waste in garbage bins there.

“I asked myself, ‘what do we do every day?'” Kyle said. “We throw away so much food. How do we prevent that?'”

Kyle said the hardest part of the project was getting it approved by administrative staff, even though all dining locations on campus already compost food waste created during preparation. She said her original plan was to place composting bins at all campus dining locations but was restricted to Lower Debot to ensure the project started correctly.

“I wasn’t expecting that to be a challenge,” Kyle said. “There was a lot of questions about details I wasn’t expecting.”

Franzen said she was impressed with the speed at which Kyle’s project progressed, despite setbacks. Other projects for the class addressed topics like local water usage and invasive species, and Franzen said Kyle’s vision was realistic.

“It was something that she could do. She had control over it,” Franzen said. “Some students really ran into problems, and that’s part of the course, too.”

Kyle’s position as a student manager helped accelerate progress and by May, Dining and Summer Conferences supplied two bins complete with customized informational graphics. She chose to wait until September to implement the program for training purposes.

Reactions to the bins have been positive, Kyle said, and the volume of food being composted is increasing, though some users improperly dispose of garbage in the bins. Kyle said she hopes to partner with student organizations in order to educate and promote proper composting.

James Swenson, senior wildlife major, said he was not aware of the bins in Lower Debot but said he thinks a composting program for uneaten food will gain popularity.

“If you spread the word about it, then a lot of people will want to participate,” Swenson said. “As long as it’s being used for a good reason, I think that’s a good thing.”

All compost generated on campus is hauled to the University’s Waste Education Center where it is mixed into a large three-pile system, which Kyle said allows users to compost foods like meat and bread which don’t break down readily in smaller systems.

“What makes our system different is that it’s huge,” Kyle said. “The bigger the system, the more you can put in there.”

“What makes our system different is that it’s huge,” Kyle said. “The bigger the system, the more you can put in there.”

Even though Franzen’s class ended, Kyle said she plans to keep working toward getting bins for all dining locations before she graduates in April.

“Now I’m chest deep in it. I have to keep going,” Kyle said. “I was really proud of the project personally. I realized how big it really was.”

Franzen said she is always impressed by her students and believes students’ interest in environmental issues is not limited to people in natural resources courses.

“I think it’s empowering for students to realize they can actually do stuff,” Franzen said. “People all across the university are concerned about environmental issues, not just people in the CNR.”

Avery Jehnke



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