Tori Smith – Staff Writer
Gustavus is committed to reducing its amount of waste on campus. Just this semester the college introduced compost bins to all residence halls.
Previously, compost bins were only available in the Jackson Campus Center. This change has allowed more students to compost their food scraps and compostable material in order to decrease waste and move towards the college’s goal of zero waste.
In order to incentivize students to sort their waste properly, the Sustainability Interns and Residential Life have teamed up to create a week-long Inter-Hall Waste Sorting Challenge.
This challenge is a competition between residence halls to determine which hall has the best waste-sorting practices. The residence hall with the least amount of contamination (compostable material in recycling, recyclable materials in waste, waste in compost, etc.) will win the challenge.
Sustainability Interns such as Junior Audrey Ochtrup-DeKeyrel, Junior Kendra Held and Sophomore Lily Kingsley are excited to see how each residence hall compares in their waste-sorting ability.
“I’m excited for students to have another opportunity to recognize the importance of their actions regarding many things, but specifically waste disposal,”
Held noted her excitement for the future of sustainability initiatives on campus. Sorting waste properly will reduce the amount of waste going into landfills, which benefits Gustavus and neighboring communities.
“Accurate waste sorting is a step toward creating cyclical, regenerative systems that replenish rather than extract and pollute,” Held said.
The Sustainability Interns and Residential Life began planning this event last spring but, because of the pandemic, their plans had to be pushed back a full year. Fortunately, all that planning has paid off now that the challenge is up and running.
“Res Life has been extremely supportive of this initiative being completed this year, and hopefully continuing into the future,” Ochtrup-DeKeyrel said.
The Inter-Hall Waste Sorting Challenge is a great way for students to compete with others while also helping to reduce waste.
“In order to reach our zero-waste goal as an institution, it is imperative that everyone take it upon themselves to learn how to properly sort their waste,”
Even after the end of the challenge, the college will continue to emphasize their initiative to achieve zero waste on campus.
“Gustavus is highly intentional about collecting and diverting food waste in a productive way,” according to the Zero Waste Initiative page on the Gustavus website.
With a composting system here on campus, the college is able to collect the composted material from residence halls and reintegrate it into both landscaping and food production at Big Hill Farm, a student-managed farm that focuses on sustainable food production.
Much of the produce from Big Hill Farm makes its way into the Market Place salad bar, creating somewhat of a closed-loop system here on campus. Students compost their food scraps and materials into their residence hall’s designated composting bins, which then goes back into the soil to produce food at the farm, which then goes back right onto their plates, and the cycle continues.
Unfortunately, this cycle isn’t possible if students don’t actually take the time to sort their waste.
“Students can be better at sorting their waste by reading the signs on waste bins and making sure that their food waste and to-go boxes from the cafeteria end up in compost bins,” Kingsley said.
Through events and challenges like this, the sustainability interns hope to educate students on their waste-sorting habits.
The challenge will run until this Friday, April 16 and the winning hall will be announced. Ochtrup-DeKeyrel predicts that an upper-class hall will come in first place, but many believe the first-years will pull through. May the best hall win.