Student’s capstone introducing composting to East Campus

By Jessenya Guerra
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East Campus Students pose with their new Sure-Close composting bins. Photo By Carolyn Hinman.

“I started becoming interested in composting when I found out that 30-40 percent of food waste ends up in our landfills,” said Carolyn Hinman a transfer student who is living in California State University, Monterey Bay’s (CSUMB) East Campus. “One in six people in America are food insecure, and we are throwing away perfectly viable food. This food then sits in landfills and produces more greenhouse gases than carbon emissions!,” said Hinman.

Hinman said when she moved to East Campus, “I was shocked at the lack of composting that CSUMB was doing. I figured that they would have already had something in place for food waste, but they didn’t.” As part of her capstone, Hinman worked with the Sustainability office on campus to provide a method of disposing food waste in East Campus.

Hinman believes that it is very important to educate students about food waste and how composting can produce benefits for our community. “Monterey Regional Waste Management has an anaerobic digester that they use to compost materials. This is better than a traditional worms and dirt compost because it can break down harder food materials.” Hinman said. These harder food materials include: meat, bones, compostable utensils and plates. Whereas in a backyard composting bin, one would not be able to compost those items.

“…digester can then use that compost to make energy and electricity. Monterey Regional Waste Management, I believe, is self-sufficient and even sells back power to the grid. It’s fascinating how they are using an originally destructive source [food waste] can turn into renewable energy. Composting and food waste diversion is very important but the anaerobic digester still has some flaws. Although it is a step in the right direction there is still more that we can be doing,” said Hinman.

“A main problem from food waste is that we are taught that buying in bulk is better, but we aren’t realizing how much of it we end up throwing away. Not to mention that the food dating system is flawed. Companies put arbitrary dates for their peak sell by and then people throw products away after that date. I might be the grossest person ever, but I keep things until they are bad, not based on the date,” said Hinman.

Hinman decided to focus her Capstone on compost because she states, “It started with the food waste cart that Monterey Regional Waste Management donated to be in front of the Saratoga community center. Each week it would be able half-full. Then the Ventana chapter of The Sierra Club donated 300 sure close individual composting bins for East Campus apartments. The bins are great! They help to keep the smell in and bugs out!”

“This is great because as soon as Monterey Regional Waste Management sees that we have a demand for the food waste carts, more will start to be delivered all over East Campus,” Hinman stated. She also said that she could not have done this project by herself, and that the wheels were already in motion when it came to composting. She just helped to push the campus in a more food waste aware direction.

“Out of all of this I just want to make sure that people become more aware of how much viable food they are throwing away. Food that could be going to a family in need,” said Hinman. She thanks the Sierra Club for their donation and for the help of the sustainability department on campus.

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