The Compost Team: A Story of Sustainability Success

By Kamalaldin M. Kamalaldin, Staff Writer

Composting Team working on a rainy day. Photo by Kamalaldin M. Kamalaldin.


Composting team uses hay to aid in the composting process. Photo by Kamalaldin M. Kamalaldin.

One of the many ideas to spring out of Kalamazoo’s Climate Fellowship program is the composting program. The program was first envisioned by Monica Cooper ’14 and implemented by Alicia Pettys ’13 while the former was on study abroad.

Directed and supported by Robert Townsend, “The project began really smooth, and many people didn’t mind composting,” said Cooper. “The compost waste we received was insignificant the first quarter, but it rose exponentially, reaching 3.5 tons by last year’s end.”

The adoption surpassed expectations, causing the brimming of the three compost-processing bins. “We had to build a fourth, separate, larger bin for the spring term’s batch,” recalled Cooper.

The composting program has been serving 8 Living Learning Houses, the Cavern, the Book Club, the LandSea office, and 16 off-campus houses.

Jordan Earnest’14 says volunteering to compost every quarter puts her into the heart of the college.

“It makes me feel [like I am] a part of the community,” she said. “Without it, my home life and school life would feel separate.”

Two hours a quarter is all it takes to volunteer for the compost program for those who live off-campus. “It is very easy to get involved and simple to pick up,” said Mary Mather ’14. “It feels natural and I would like to do it again.”

There are multitude reasons and advantages for composting. Excluding the environmental factors, “Garbage smells less since all the food is being separated and thrown out more often,” explained Cooper. “And instead of throwing food in landfills, we can recycle it easily and reuse it.”

“We live in a community where the food is readily available, but it’s not the same in Africa [and other places],” said Dylan Polcyn ‘16, the intern for composting. His and the composting team’s efforts are a tribute to those who are less fortunate. “We are trying to encourage people to waste less food, and contribute less to the building up of landfills.”

Future plans for the composting program include expanding to the Richardson Room and student dorms. The former is already in progress, as an agreement has been struck between the two sides.

“We are getting two professional compost beds in the winter dedicated for the cafeteria food,” Cooper assures. The latter of the ambitions, however, remains out of sight for the time being.

Those close to the composting effort believe that expansion is inevitable. The soil collected from last year’s compost, tested to be of the highest quality by University of Michigan staff, will nurture the gardens of the highly anticipated Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership.