Friday, April 25, 2008

Composting Carnivale

On a recent trip to Davis, CA, a bike-friendly haven just west of Sacramento, I met some very interesting co-eds. A friend, who is doing her post-doc in neuroscience at UC Davis, offered to show me around the campus (on a bike of course).

If there's a way to look cool on a bike, I have yet to find it.

What I found were inspiring microcosms; small, student-run organizations that have formed communities, which work together to effect real change in the world. Rather than just complain about waste and inefficiency, they are changing their lifestyles. I'm certainly down with that.

The first little stop on our bike trek was what I will call composting central; it was located at the back of a few of the houses where members of The Co-op live. In their own words, The Co-ops are "an ecologically-conscious culturally diverse student community dedicated to alternative living. We power our homes with solar energy, we grow some food organically, and love to compost and recycle."

No more guilt over scrapping your broccoli

What's more, some of these students run Project Compost, which is a student-run and funded initiative that both educates the university population about compost through free composting workshops, and picks up over 1000 pounds of food refuse daily from all over campus.

Sign Reads: "Crank Lever to Mix Content"
Leigh: A+ (Nice Form!) Steve: F (At least hold the sign!)

True to their mission, the composting area was both educational and functional. It had several different types of bins along with explanations about how each system worked. Some required sifting, rotating racks, or spinning, and we were happy to get down and dirty with them all.

"Behold, the composting power of worms!"

"Holy Hell, that is a stinky business!"

Where does all of this nutrient-rich (and alarmingly bug-infested) compost go? Right next door - to The Co-ops bountiful organic gardens.

So if these college students can pull this off, why can't those of us with a college diploma do the same thing? And most importantly, why are so many of us still dumping biodegradable matter into the landfill where it creates methane emissions (yes, that's one of the types of gases that causes global warming).

Lastly, with the cost of food ever on the rise, why not start growing a little bit of your own? For more info on the UC Davis composting program, visit the website. If you are a college student, look around at how much food waste is being generated each day - I guarantee you will be horrified - and then consider starting one of these projects at your school. I'm sure the UC Davis crew would be happy to offer some pointers. They do attend an agricultural school after all, and these students obviously have been staying awake in class.

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