by Marie Beaty
Beginning Oct 14, North Park took its next stride in reducing the campus’ carbon footprint. Plans were finalized Oct 10 to compost all food waste in ARA. North Park will eliminate over 2,000 pounds of biodegradable food waste every week, through the company Collective Resource, Inc. (CRI).
The idea was proposed by North Park’s Green Team, who sought to use leftover food and kitchen scraps in an "environmentally sustainable way.” The Green Team submitted a composting proposal in the spring of 2016, and the university's decision was finally handed down on Oct 10. “I hope that this step moves us towards being a more sustainable university,” says Green Team co-president Renee Baker, “composting our food waste instead of dumping it into a landfill is an excellent way to be good stewards for God’s creation, and be models for sustainable living in the Chicago area.”
Composting is the process of recycling organic material into nutrient-rich soil. Over the course of several weeks, food waste will decompose and create a soil high in micronutrients that are often omitted from commercial fertilizers. Though it is typically a time-consuming and messy process, composting through CRI eliminates many of these traditional concerns. Erlene Howard, the founder and owner of CRI, says she is passionate about making composting work for the average person. “I thought, ‘more people would do this if it were easy',” Howard recalls. Now the responsibility is on students to discern what can and cannot be composted.
Many foods can be composted, such as vegetables, fruits (and their rinds), grains, meat, and even paper napkins. Signs will be posted in ARA to remind students of which foods should be composted instead of being thrown into the garbage. CRI will provide bins to collect this carbon-based waste and dispose of it through the composting process. Between the joint effort of the students and CRI, North Park will reduce its annual landfill contributions by well over 75,000 pounds. Although there may be some confusion when first implementing the system, 65% of students were fully supportive of composting in ARA after the trial runs had been conducted in the spring semester of 2016.
Steps toward being a sustainable university are often costly, and yet partnering with CRI will only cost an extra $2.91 per undergraduate student, per year. As North Park becomes a greener campus, it joins the ranks of other city universities like Loyola and UIC, which have already instituted composting programs of their own. There is still a lot that can be done before being recognized as an earth-friendly institution, such as enforcing recycling on campus, but composting is one big step in the right direction.