Gustavus Sustainability: Compost Bins

Emma Puftahl – Staff Writer

This school year a compost bucket has been added to student dorm rooms. Working towards Gustavus’ sustainability goal of ninety percent of solid waste being properly recycled or composted by 2024, these compost bins help Gustavus work towards becoming a zero waste campus.
Long in the works, this initiative is the culmination of many Gusties. This mini compost bin is no small feat, it has taken a long time There is a large time commitment in creating these changes. During his Fall 2021 Environmental Studies Seminar, Jeff Jeremiason, Chemistry Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies touched on campus composting. “It’s amazing how many hours have been spent on trying to implement composting [and its infrastructure,” Jeremiason said.
In December of 2020, Kari Wallin became Gustavus’ new ‘Compost, Waste, and Environmental Sustainability Manager.’
Wallin was hired to help streamline this process with other members of the President’s Environmental Sustainability Council (PESC). The mini compost buckets are one of the ways this group has been able to successfully move Gusties towards zero-waste.
“We’re trying to make it as easy as we can. With the yellow kirbies having been already operational was good. Now we are hoping for an increase,” Wallin said. Students have been given the medium to collect food waste before transferring it to the Caf or yellow kirbies, the hope is for more food waste to be diverted from normal garbage waste and landfills to industrial compost sites that will allow for food scraps to transform into nutrient rich soil.
The mini compost bin food waste build up is meant to be transferred to the large yellow kirbies outside each residential building and many academic buildings. The collected food waste is then either brought to our campus composter and later used at Big Hill Farm or to a larger composting facility in St. Peter.
The food waste is saved from a landfill and brought to a composter to be reused as nutrient rich soil, some of which is being used to grow food here on campus. Senior Sustainability Intern Audrey Ochtrup-DeKeyrel worked on Big Hill Farm this past summer and was involved with the composting initiative.
“Composting is really exciting for Big Hill Farm because all the compost from the Caf comes back to the farm, it’s almost cyclical,” Ochtrup-DeKeyrel said.
In essence, if you leave a carrot that was grown at Big Hill Farm on your plate and place it on the conveyor in the Caf, it may return to the same place it came from as compost to grow more carrots in the future.
The plan for these bins is to create a systemic change in how the campus deal with sorting waste on campus.
“If we can build composting infrastructure and understanding and behavior change into life here, living on campus, we can see changes in those numbers for composting and recycling go way up and our [landfill] waste go way down,” Wallin said.
The Council expressed that this process is expected to be a learning curve. Campus still have a long way to go before we can get to ninety percent of solid waste being diverted successfully to be recycled or composted.
Nobody is expecting large changes in waste management overnight. It is the hope Gusties can use these bins as a stepping stone towards being more knowledgeable with waste sorting. Veteran composters will use these mini compost bins as a way to continue or enhance their composting and waste sorting routines. Newbies will learn and implement waste management they have never experienced before. A pillar of sustainability is ensuring Campus waste is sorted properly and doesn’t all go to the landfill.
Wallin reports that the 950 compost bins spread across campus leaves the campus in gratitude of numerous faculty, staff, and students of both past and present.
“We are really thankful for Building Services, Dining Services, Physical Plant, and the student interns. They all have been really amazing and done a lot of work to get it here” Ochtrup-DeKeyrel said.
The Bookmark has joined in support by providing compostable bags and carbon filters for sale, to help minimize mess and smells, with a pack of ten compostable bags or a carbon filter each sold separately for $2.
If you would like more information or any questions, you can contact Kari Wallin at (

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