Not all heroes wear capes. In fact, some don tan shirts and rubber gloves and call themselves the Compost Crew.
The Compost Crew is a student-initiated group committed to diverting waste on campus. As their name indicates, the group’s primary focus is collecting food waste for composting. Their work is part of a broader commitment at the university to create zero-landfill initiatives across campus including event planning consultation, awareness campaigns, and recycling/repurposing efforts.
One-third of food produced for human consumption ends up as waste, with the vast majority going to landfills where it produces greenhouse gases. While our primary goal is to reduce waste on the front end, even the best planned events can generate uneaten food. By composting food waste, these negative impacts are avoided and nutrients can be returned to the soil.
Compost Crew services are available, upon request, to all campus event hosts and are available for select off-campus events as well. The process begins with a brief one-on-one consultation between the event host and a staff member from the Office of Sustainability, in order to determine the appropriate waste reduction and diversion options. At the event, members of the Compost Crew guide attendees in sorting their waste appropriately.
“We have greatly appreciated the Compost Crew being available at each step of our event planning processes,” Leigh Anne Wray, Green Team Captain for the Office of the Dean of the College, said.
In collaboration with the WFU Waste Reduction and Recycling office, the Compost Crew is supporting significant shifts in waste diversion across campus. For example, at their most recent on-campus residency program, the Department of Counseling saw an 80 percent reduction in waste sent to the landfill over previous years.
“We were quite pleased with the results of our efforts. We now know that moving forward, this is definitely the way to go. We will put our heads together to see at which other events we can step up our ‘green’ game.” Jamie Crockett, Green Team Captain for the Department of Counseling said.
In addition to diverting food waste at campus events, the Compost Crew has also instituted a pilot program for food waste collection in select residence halls, with volunteers emptying the bins three times a week.
Additionally, all Reynolda Campus offices and departments are now able to collect waste for composting with free weekly pickup by the Compost Crew. Most recently, the Biology Department has begun collecting food waste for composting in their faculty lounge.
“The Compost Crew made it effortless for us to implement this new program by picking up the compost weekly and taking it to the collection bins. All we have to do is sort correctly! It has been a welcomed addition to our lounge area and our faculty and staff seem to appreciate this effort to reduce our waste footprint.” Michelle Ford, Green Team Captain for the Department of Biology, said.
Julia Stevens, a waste reduction assistant with the Office of Sustainability, views the Compost Crew, for which she serves in a leadership role, as a vibrant group of students ready to push up their sleeves and do the dirty work in order to make food waste collection both easy and accessible on campus.
“Although Wake Forest is working on waste reduction initiatives to make the campus more sustainable, there are many areas where food is not eaten or diverted, such as certain events on campus and in residence halls,” Stevens said. “The work we do is so important because where the staffing infrastructure of the school is not yet able to support this waste diversion initiative, a group of students is stepping up to fill in the gap.”
Are you looking to reduce waste at your next event? Want your office space or residence hall equipped with a food waste collection bin? Contact Brian Cohen (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more and to start the conversation.