Discourse / Letters / May 18, 2011

Letter to the Editor: There will someday be a rainbow

Knox now has a worm composting system, which has global impacts. It has the potential to be an alternative to landfills for food waste, and can even offset erosion. Worm compost is full of natural growth hormones, and natural pesticides are the best material for growing plants and can create “worm tea,” it considered to be a miracle growth elixir. In many ways, composting at Knox is sustainable.

Our system should compost 60 thousand pounds of food waste and The Knox Student newspapers every year. The compost will be used on campus on the community garden, for the new urban agriculture class and traded for reduced prices on produce. Two new student jobs will be created to work on composting. This could be a starting point for a more sustainable Knox.

This is a huge step forward, and it is a testament to student activism. I would now like to tell the story of how this achievement came to be, and thank all of the individuals who contributed.

Last school year, Creal Zearing and Annika Paulsen formed a composting club to reduce and reuse the large amounts of food waste at Knox. During the course of the year, the club got the idea for a machine called the Earth Tub, which is a fully contained composting system.

This year, an official committee made up of Annika, Katie Hansen, Katie Beadling, Michelle Gerber and I investigated composting solutions and worked hard to understand the infrastructure and requirements a composting system would need. Our efforts led us to the Somat, which only turns post-consumer waste to mulch. The question became how to turn the mulch into compost.

Last fall, Peter Schwartzman and I visited Growing Power, an aquaponics farm that also employs vermiculture (worm composting). I realized that I could combine the Somat with a worm bin to compost the mulch. Then, the technical expertise of Joel Gruver from Western Illinois University, and Phillip Rixstine from Caterpillar, helped solidify a plan. The next step was to obtain funding.

Maxwell Galloway-Carson, Helmut Mayer and I drafted a proposal and pitched it to the Senate Executive Board members. They loved it, so Sam Claypool and Chris Bugajski got the system funded through the green fee, the restricted fund and through a generous donation from President Taylor.

The process has not been easy, but the result is well worth it.

Helmut and I have been working to set up the system for the last month. Max and I will be here over the summer working on the system. Join us and the compost committee in celebrating the hard work of Knox students and Dining Services to bring composting to Knox!!!

Josh Davidoff

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