Emma Pufahl – Opinion Columnist
Hello my fellow Gusties and welcome back to the (below) freezing Minnesota weather we all know and… love? We need to talk about a very important topic, that lies heavy on my mind, as well as the minds of many, many EAC members and various staff members. Composting. You might be saying to yourself, “What on earth is composting? How do I do it? Why does it matter?” Fear not. I will tell you all you need to hear and hopefully convince you into being a full-fledged Compost Warrior. (I’m open to suggestions on what our official title could be).
Composting is when organic material, such as grass clippings, banana peels or the faux plastic straws and cups from your favorite iced Courtyard drink, rots and breaks down into beautiful, nutrient-rich, black soil, the kind of soil people will spend good money on. Some of the best soil you can grow your dorm plant in is this composted soil. There are a few more steps from banana peel to houseplant soil, but all you need to know is that grass clippings can make gold standard soil.
How do I compost? Gustavus is a pretty incredible campus that stepped up their composting game this school year. Before this year, Campus Center and Nobel were the only places on campus where we could compost. Now, we are able to compost nearly anywhere on campus. When you get pizza and egg rolls in a to-go container with a fountain pop in a cup with a lid, everything in your hands can go in your nearest compost bin. And if you were enjoying a socially distanced meal with your friend, all leftover food scraps are composted by the lovely people in the dish room. Either way of disposal will have these compostable goods end up in the same place: Gustavus’ industrial composter.
If your dorm have a leftover ice cream pail, a fancy compost bin with a charcoal filter, or just save your coffee cup after stopping by the Courtyard, fill them up with loose scraps and once full, or once it stinks too much, bring it to your nearest compost bin. If you use the coffee cup option, remember the entire cup can go in the compost, assuming the coffee is from somewhere on campus. Every academic and residence building should have at least one compost bin, or there is one somewhere nearby.
Now the most important question- Why does composting my one banana peel even matter?
Let’s talk about where food scraps put in the normal trash cans go. (Side note: I don’t know why I’m stuck on this banana peel example. I don’t even eat bananas.) When that banana peel from the banana that went into your roommate’s interesting but delicious spinach and banana bread muffins goes into the trash can instead of going to the compost, it doesn’t get to live out its full potential. The trash bag can suffocate the natural rotting process of the organic material, meaning it won’t break down properly, if at all. Not only this, but the organic material is heading to a garbage dump where it will be sealed and stuck until the end of time. Not only does that sound like a complete let down, but all of the nutrients, energy and water will be buried with it. We will lose these somewhat limited resources to a garbage dump. A garbage dump, an inanimate place, is given these invaluable resources. In turn, it is sealed off and gets to hold on to these life-preserving assets forever. Allowing organic materials break down and return to soil is one of the inputs that can inhibit the growth of strong, healthy plants.
Please think about completing the life cycle of your food, grass clippings or compostable utensils. These organic materials help in ensuring essential nutrients return to the living-beings that need it for survival, instead of feeding a garbage dump. If you are unsure about what can be composted, think about where it came from. All to-go dishware on campus can be composted. Throwing week-old leftovers into the compost instead of the trash can is crucial to providing ourselves, as well as future generations vital resources, nutrients, energy and water. I’m asking you to think about this and walk the extra 15 steps to put your compostable, organic-material goodies into the compost bin.