Pomona has installed compost bins across campus to supplement ongoing efforts at the Organic Farm. The initiative, which launched in late March, was spearheaded by Samantha Meyer PO ’10 with funds from the President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability (PACS).
“I came up with the idea for the proposal because I felt like composting was pretty inaccessible on campus,” she said. “In order to compost, students had to walk all the way to the farm, which can be a pretty long trek.”
According to Associate Dean of Students Neil Gerard, PACS is essentially “a fund created by President Oxtoby for student initiatives in sustainability.” Once the committee approved Meyer’s proposal, she worked with Director of the Sustainability Integration Office Bowen Close and chemistry professor and PACS chair Charles Taylor to implement the project.
There are now two new compost bins, made of recycled plastic, on campus—one in the Mudd-Blaisdell courtyard and one between Clark V and Walker. In an email to the student body, Associate Dean of Students and Dean of Campus Life Ric Townes said items that can be composted include produce, vegan food scraps, biodegradable paper, and thin paper products, such as tissues. Meat, dairy, and biodegradable plastics cannot be composted under the current program.
Initially, the program was going to include more compost bins, but Taylor suggested the program start small and build up.
“Let’s make sure that before we spend a lot of money on this, we get people to use the ones we have,” he said.
If students begin to use the bins regularly, the committee plans to purchase four more.
“I’m hoping that this will increase the accessibility of composting on campus, and as a result more people will choose to compost their organic waste,” Meyer said. “Not only does this reduce our waste stream and, thus, environmental impact, but sending less waste to the landfill can also save the college money.”
PACS has already purchased 20 smaller compost buckets that students can keep in their rooms or halls.
Because of the consistent ant problem at Pomona and the potential smell of rotting produce, Taylor suggested students keep the bins outside, or at least in a place where they will not bother other residents.
The compost collected in the bins will ultimately be taken to the organic farm.
“If it’s ready to be used, we’ll put it on plots there,” said Meyer. “If not, we’ll incorporate it into the compost pile at the farm.”
The compost program is a part of Pomona’s Sustainability Action Plan and represents another step in the school’s efforts to reduce its environmental impact. Pomona is not the first of the 5Cs to institute a compost program; Pitzer already has trash-can sized collection bins in its dining hall for food waste, and several of the colleges compost plant cuttings and waste.
Meyer encourages students to participate in the program.
“Composting is such a great process and I would love to see more students involved,” she said. “It’s so cool to see your waste turned into something that can grow more food.”