Students launch composting pilot in Cobb Café

November 3, 2010

Julie Huang ’12 and Claire Feinberg ’12 have used money awarded to them by the Uncommon Fund to a very trashy end. The two friends are committed to bringing composting practices, already in the residential dining halls, to the student body. With the help of the staff in the student run Cobb Café, they have launched a successful composting program.

Since the program’s implementation at the beginning of the 2010 school year, they have captured almost 350 pounds of compostable waste! This waste goes to the Resource Center, a non-profit only a few miles from the campus, to be converted into compost.

Compost is a material rich in nutrients that can be used in a myriad of ways to reduce fertilizer use and pesticide dependencies, as well as to rejuvenate mineral-deficient soil. In addition to pre- and post-consumer food waste, other items can also be composted, including lightly processed paper goods, compostable flatware, plates, and cups, dryer lint and pet hair, and yard trimmings. By composting, individuals can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. Furthermore, this decreases the production of methane, which contributes to climate change.

The Cobb Café composting project builds on several existing composting initiatives on campus. In Facilities Services, the Grounds and Landscaping team composts 95% of campus yard waste. In addition, the Pierce, Bartlett, and South Campus dining halls have a robust composting system, also facilitated by the Resource Center, which has partnered with Housing and Dining Services since 1994. Through this program in the 2009-2010 school year, the dining halls diverted an estimated 468,000 pounds of pre- and post-consumer food waste from local landfills.

While the dining halls’ composting processes take place behind-the-scenes, Julie and Claire thought it was important for composting efforts in Cobb to be as visible as possible. As a result, café patrons can directly contribute to the success of this new initiative by scraping their food waste and other items into marked composting bins next to trash and recycling containers. Cobb café staff also have their own composting bin behind the counter for disposing of an estimated fifteen pounds of used coffee grounds every day.

Visit the Cobb Café to check out the pilot composting program and throw away your compostable goods, which includes any edible waste, lightly processed paper goods like napkins, paper plates, and cups as well as wooden chopsticks and coffee stirrers. If you’d like to get involved in the effort, contact Julie or Claire.