Residence Halls Making the Most of Compost
Kyle Florence

In recent months, Residential Living has joined forces with the Green Advocates to implement a campus-wide composting program throughout the residence halls.

“The Green Advocates and this campus are trying to move in a more sustainable direction, and the first step is limiting our waste,” said Chelsey Ehlers, who is both a regular composter and the Green Advocate of Steiner Hall.

By maintaining this position in her hall government, it is Ehlers’ responsibility to implicate green initiatives within her residence hall and make the residents aware of them.

“This program basically provides residents with the information and materials they need to start composting,” explained Ehlers.

Cindy VonGnechten, Residential Living Facility Designer and supervisor of the Green Advocates, shared a similar outlook.

“The initial goal of this program is to educate the students on various environmental efforts that they can do that impact not just themselves and what they’re doing, but that can also help campus as well,” VonGnechten said.

Though not officially put into action until this previous October, according to VonGnechten, the composting initiative was originally prompted much earlier per student request.

“It is something that students have been interested in and asking for for maybe the past five years or so,” VonGnechten said. “As the interest grew among residents, we began to realize that we needed to do something a little bit bigger.”

Currently, participating residents separately collect their organic food waste in their rooms and deposit it in a centralized composting bin located in their residence hall. The collected compost is taken by Residential Living-Building Services to the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point Waste Education Center. There, it is composted by Waste Education Center staff and students into a nutrient-rich soil which is used across campus by Buildings and Grounds.

“The part of this program that I think is so amazing is that the compost that they are helping make is compost that’s used all across campus,” VonGnechten said. “It’s a nice collaborative effort between Residential Living, the Waste Education Center, and Buildings and Grounds.”

Ehlers agrees, advocating that this is one of the main draws of the program.

“I like the fact that I know it’s actually being re-used on campus, as opposed to sitting and rotting in a landfill somewhere” Ehlers said. “It’s not that hard, and it’s nice knowing that you are making a difference.”

VonGnechten went on to elaborate that this sense of accomplishment should be an incentive for all students living within the residence halls to get involved with this program.

“Students should realize that there are all kinds of environmental things that you can do to enhance not only your immediate environment, but also your environment on a more global scale,” VonGnechten explained. “It also makes them feel good about themselves through the whole cycle of participating and realizing that you are doing good in all aspects of your life.”

Warren Nordgren, a waste education major, is a strong advocate of composting on campus, as it reduces the amount of waste in landfills.

“If your waste goes to a landfill, it sits with all types of waste. Since a lot of those wastes aren’t going to be organic, it’ll take longer for those that are organic to break down,” said Nordgren. “By composting, we make room for other types of non-organic waste.”

Apart from less landfill mass, composting also brings with it a number of other benefits, including healthier plants and gardens, richer, more balanced soil, and even an improved diet.

For more information on the UWSP Residence Halls’ Composting Program and other green initiatives taking place on campus, students can contact their residence hall’s Green Advocate or Hall Director or get in touch with Residential Living- Building Services.