The Green Living Council (GLC) recently began a composting program within several undergraduate residences, providing compost bins in kitchenette areas as well as Ziploc-sized re-sealable bags for each resident to keep in their rooms.
The compost project, which is being piloted in Alondra, Ujaama, Trancos, Junipero and Castano is one of three GLC “Spreading Everyday Environmentalism in Dorms” (SEED) pilot initiatives debuting this quarter. The other two initiatives feature efforts to reduce the amount of paper towel waste and increase recycling efforts.
According to Emma Hutchinson ’17, a GLC member and representative for Roble Hall, baseline information about resident behavior was collected last quarter. In particular, Hutchinson and the other members working on the compost project analyzed the percentage of compostable waste that was thrown out in the landfill.
According to the data collected from a random sampling of dorms, an average of around 41 percent of the landfill trash (by weight) that a resident generates is compostable.
“We’re taking into account paper towels and napkins, and compostable containers is a huge [part of the landfill],” Hutchinson said. “Food vendors around campus use compostable containers and a lot of people don’t know those are compostable.”
This baseline information will be used to comparatively assess the results of the GLC’s efforts through the end of the year, which the group will present to the Office of Sustainability as a potential model for a University-wide initiative.
“The data that we’ll have from pilot SEED initiatives can be used for scaling these projects up to the institutional level with help from the Housing Department or by the Office of Sustainability,” said Sasha Brownsberger ’14, co-president of the Green Council.
Olivia Reyes-Becerra ’17, GLC member and representative for Junipero, said that the compost project has been easy to advocate when talking to peers in her dorm.
“I’m able to have conversations with people about sustainability and they’re less likely to be put off from being sustainable and understand that being green is part of your everyday life,” Reyes-Becerra said. “Living there allows me to show others this is exactly how you do it. I’m there as an example.”
Linda Xiong ’17, a resident of Junipero, explained that incorporating the use of the compost bags would take a while for her to get used to, especially because she didn’t grow up with composting habits at home.
“It’s a little weird, and it’s more convenient to do it at the dining hall because I have to do it there,” she said. “Initially you have to make a conscious decision to get the baggie and put the apple core or the banana peel into it.”
However, residents have responded positively to the composting efforts, according to both Hutchinson and Reyes-Becerra.
“I’m emptying the compost bin every three days–both bins–basically two to three times a week,” Hutchinson said, adding that so far Roble has generated over 35 points of compost per week.
While the compost project has started well, Hutchinson predicted some obstacles to instilling environmentally conscious behavior in her dorm-mates.
“I’m anticipating that people will still be throwing out paper towels and napkins. That’s also [compost], not just food waste,” Hutchinson said. “But I’m generally pleased with the response rate at Roble. People have been pretty responsive.”
Contact Catherine Zaw at czaw13 ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.