Overview and purpose of the project: The purpose of this project is to continue to change the way the UST community thinks about waste. Composting confronts the idea that, when you throw something away it just disappears, and provides alternative to sending our waste to landfills. In the fall of 2012, the CSF funded a project to expand Dr. Chester Wilson’s vermiculture composting system, which composts all of the coffee grounds produced by Beakers on the second floor of OWS.
The goal of this previous CSF project was to expand the efforts of Dr. Wilson by collecting and composting much of the coffee grounds produced on north campus, as well as to raise campus awareness on the benefits and ease of composting. This project is well underway, and one can see the worms working their digestive wonders in the parking ramp under ASC.
Quinn Wrenholt, the primary applicant of the fall vermicomposting CSF proposal, and other members of the Composting Club have been collecting the coffee grounds from the library Coffee Bene, as well as from T’s, the Loft, and Summit Marketplace in the student center since this spring semester began (with average daily collection of between 12 and 18 gallons of coffee grounds – more than 50 gallons each week).
The collection crew, which consists of seven motivated individuals, comprises the core group of the Composting Club and has already logged more than 30 cumulative hours of volunteer time providing a direct service to our campus through collecting the coffee grounds we produce. Further Composting Club activities have included another 60 hours of volunteer time contributed to the development of a long-term research project connecting the worm composting bins in the ASC parking ramp to the research occurring in the UST Stewardship Garden located in the Green Space behind the BEC.
These activities, in particular the daily collection of the mass amounts of coffee grounds has drawn the attention of Tommie Media on numerous occasions already this semester. Quinn Wrenholt will also soon be submitting a blog to the UST Sustainability Blog detailing the progress of the project up to this point and describing in more detail the research being done and some of the additional goals of the Composting Club (http://ustsustainblog. com) This proposal is to expand our on-campus composting even further by placing vermicompost bins in different departments and office areas around campus.
This will allow coffee grounds and other food waste produced in these areas to be composted on site. The composting club will maintain these new bins in addition to the bins in the ASC. Additionally, each bin will be sponsored by an individual who works in the area covered by the bin. These Compost Club Liaisons are the keystone to this project with the Composting Club providing all the necessary support. This project’s proposed budget reflects exactly the number of vermicomposting bins that we have received demand and support for so far (see Appendix A).
This expansion will be a great addition to the composting work started by Chester Wilson on South Campus and expanded to North Campus this past fall, as it will allow many UST faculty and staff to directly participate in the composting process. Additionally, the continued and increasing amount of alternative waste disposal will continue decrease our University’s carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions and increase the awareness of our campus community on issues pertaining to sustainability and waste. How the project will be implemented:
This project already has all the necessary infrastructure and support in place, except the purchasing of the new, additional worm bins. The vermicomposting station in the ASC parking ramp will serve as the central headquarters for this outreach project. The Composting Club will work with the liaisons to find good locations for the bins within each department. The volunteer liaisons will serve as the day-to-day managers, adding their offices’ coffee grounds to the bin each day, and encouraging others to dispose of their waste in the appropriate receptacle.
The liaisons will also serve as the point contact person should an issue arise with any of the bins. They will have access to a Compost Club Hotline which can be used to address questions and also guarantees bin removal within 30 minutes of being contacted, if needed. This is the ultimate backup if by some error or flaw a bin develops a smell or leak. These bins will be removed to the ASC parking ramp and dealt with accordingly where no one will be bothered and cleanup is easy.
This is also the contingency plan for any case-by-case bin placement issues that occur; though at this point, all of the departments participating in the project have ensured feasibility and acquired permission for their bin(s). The Composting Club will be in charge of the overall maintenance of all on-campus worm bins. When the time comes for the finished compost to be collected from the bottom tray of the stack, the Composting Club will remove the finished tray and replace it with an empty one.
The finished castings will be separated and collected in the ASC parking ramp where we have the facilities and space for doing so (see video for more detailed information and images of the Worm Factory system: http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=0sxWOCWEpsg). Only the active composting will take place on site and will be contained by the bins – all of the more intensive and potentially messy procedures will happen off-site in the ASC parking ramp.
If this project is approved, when the time comes for purchasing and distributing the new bins to the different locations across campus, the Composting Club will continue to work with the Physical plant to facilitate our fund expenditure. As we distribute the bins, we will also offer short ‘how to’ demonstrations for maintaining a healthy worm bin to the various departments, their liaisons, and other interested parties. Already, we have presented during the first five minutes of a few department meetings with great response from the faculty in attendance.
Additionally, the Composting Club has assembled a list of FAQs relating to vermicomposting in the Worm Factory bins and containing information pertinent to this project. These FAQs can be viewed in Appendix B. Budget: For the CSF Vermicompost project last fall, all of the materials (excepting the worms themselves) were purchased from The Eggplant Urban Farm Supply, located on Selby Ave just a few blocks away from our campus. For this project, we plan to continue to utilize this neighboring business as a resource and supplier. Three-tray worm bin: $89 each – Total cost: $$$$
Each location will initially receive one, three-tray stack (excepting McNeely Hall which has requested two bins to cover the entire building). As of the time of this proposal’s submission, we have received requests for __ bins (See Appendix A). Additional trays: $10 each – Total cost: $$$$ We are requesting funding for an additional __ trays in order to respond to various rates of waste input in different departments, buildings, and offices. It is difficult to anticipate the scope of the waste produced in different offices prior to the actual collection of that waste.
By altering both the number of trays in each stack and the number of worms in each tray, we can address the needs of different departments on a case-by-case basis. 10 lbs of worms: $189 (+$26 S&H) – Total cost: $$$$ This is enough for five to six of the trays mentioned above. So we will likely require a minimum of __ lbs of worms. Flexible spending – Total cost: $300 In the Vermicompost CSF proposal submitted this past fall, we requested $500 to cover additional expenses related to developing the project.
These funds have been instrumental in the project’s success and have been used to purchase rugs for the bin systems, brooms for keeping the ASC vermicomposting area clean, buckets and tubs for the collection of the coffee grounds, and more worms and trays than were originally estimated in order to keep up with the steady supply of grounds so far this semester. Also, some of the money has been allotted to fund a collaboration project with a couple of students from the UST club Engineers for a Sustainable World to design a compost sifter to facilitate the processing of finished compost and the collection of the worms.
This will be very important in facilitating the collection of worm castings from the bins, and in enabling the research projects currently being developed. For this CSF project proposal, fewer unforeseen expenses are expected as much of the infrastructure for the project is now in place. However, the purchasing of rugs for the bins and other case-by-case needs are anticipated. For this reason, we are requesting an additional $300 to cover these expenses and which also may be used to purchase another worm bin if needed by a particular department or building. Proposed budget total: $$$$$
Include defined metrics for a clearly measurable outcome and a schedule of appropriate progress reports to the CSF through the duration of the project: To monitor the outcomes of this project, the Composting Club, in coordination with students actively conducting research on the vermicomposting systems, will calculate the amount of carbon we are eliminating from the atmosphere by aerobically composting UST’s coffee grounds and some of our campus food waste. Currently, this waste is going to landfills, where it degrades much more slowly in and anaerobic environment conducive to the production of methane and other harmful greenhouse gases.
We will also make regular estimates of the amount of worm castings being produced. The castings are a valuable soil amendment, and there is potential for another student research project to pursue the branding of these castings. This way, any castings that are produced in addition to those used in the UST greenhouses and Stewardship Garden can be officially donated, which would make this not only a campus sustainability project and research opportunity, but also a non-profit business.
These numbers can be easily recorded because it will be students from the composting club along with Chester Wilson that are handling and hauling the material and maintaining the worm bins across campus. We will submit semesterly basic reports to the CSF in a format such as this: |Fall 2013 (Implementation) | Spring 2014 |Fall 2014 |Spring 2015 | |Waste composted |0 |x |x |x | |Carbon Eliminated |0 |x |x |x | |Castings Produced |0 |x |x |x | | Additional reports may come from the research projects that are now being planned and implemented relating to this project and integrating it to other ongoing campus sustainability projects.
If your project will offset greenhouse gases and reduce the campus carbon footprint, describe thoroughly how this will happen: Assuming 2 tons of waste per month composted (we will have a much more accurate estimate of the waste composted by the worms bins at the end of this semester), which would equate to the prevention of 1. 76 metric tons/month of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere. This is equivalent to eliminating 4. 56 cars from the road per month.
That is just the reduction based on that waste not being in the landfill, there would be additional carbon reduced from not having to transport that waste to the site. Further benefit would come from the utilization of the worms castings as a soil amendment in food production areas. Healthier soils are better at sequestering atmospheric CO2 and can hold more of it than denuded soils lacking nutrients and organic matter. (See Appendix C for calculation source). Although campus greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced, this project serves even more to catalyze a sustainable initiative that can be expanded in years to come.
In its first semester of existence, the Composting Club and the vermicomposting operations now located in the ASC parking ramp have already generated an awesome amount of student and faculty interest. Further, the project from the fall of 2012 has provided a conduit for alternative waste disposal on campus. The action of composting much of our campus waste is already providing a platform for further reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, reductions in waste, and overall reductions in UST’s carbon footprint.
Describe if and how students will be involved and/or the educational value to our community: The fall vermicomposting project was designed to encourage students to consider their relationship with their food and food waste, and to provide an alternative method of waste ‘disposal’ for our campus. This project is designed to do the same for our faculty and staff, further strengthening the link between food waste and climate change and increasing our carbon reduction efforts. Students have already gotten involved with this project and the Composting Club is ready to expand our efforts!
We are in the process of planning educational tours of the vermicomposting operation in the ASC parking ramp, which will be offered during Earth Week in addition to other sustainability-related project tours. Composting Club activities and the maintenance of the worm bins provide great opportunities for donation of service hours directly benefiting our campus. Further student engagement has come in the form of new research projects and connections with other campus projects. These integration projects include providing fertile worm castings to the UST greenhouses and the Stewardship Garden.
As previously mentioned, students are currently in the process of developing research proposals to further develop the UST vermicomposting project and continue outreach and integration efforts – currently students are looking into branding the vermicastings, and also into connecting with other local community gardens to do soil testing and begin long-term, case-specific amendment studies. These projects would have beneficial impacts on the surrounding UST community, in addition to the benefits added by the use and donation of the finished castings.
The increasing presence of composting efforts on campus allows the university community to fulfill our mission statement by “thinking critically and acting wisely to advance the common good. ” This project is in line with the University Mission Statement because it provides students and now faculty the opportunity to be directly involved with the food chain and to participate in their waste. In recent years people have been increasingly encouraged to buy locally and to know where their food is coming from.
While there is still a long way to go to reach these goals, movements are starting and people are daily becoming more aware of the problems human society faces. Unfortunately, there are still many people who never think about where their waste goes beyond ‘into the garbage,’ and never consider where there food comes from beyond ‘the grocery store. ’ Through the implementation and continued growth of this project, we will give the St. Thomas community the chance to experience the whole lifecycle of their food from soil and seed, to food on the table, to waste and back to soil, all within the onfines of our own campus and all on a sustainable level. Highlight innovations and the potential for the project to be scalable across our campuses: Integral to the mission of this project is scalability and its ability to grow. The Fall 2012 CSF Vermicomposting project has been hugely successful and has drawn substantial interest from individuals across campus. This proposal is an expansion of that project, catalyzed by the interest and eagerness of others to partake and participate in alternative waste disposal.
While working with the worm bins in the ASC parking ramp or while collecting the coffee grounds from UST producers, Compost Club members were occasionally approached by interested faculty or students about what they were doing or concerning the good coffee smell permeating the air near the bins. After introducing the interested individual to the project and showing them the worms, almost without fail, the students and faculty alike were interested in contributing their own coffee and their own food waste from home or from their office or department.
Unfortunately, because the current vermicomposting system is already operating near capacity, we are unable to collect grounds or waste from these sources; however, it was this community interest that stimulated this expansion idea. This project has great potential to be scaled across our campuses and to continually grow and develop as a UST legacy. As other faculty and staff see the bins that we are planning to place in several departments across campus, we are expecting the bins to generate interest by other departments, offices, and campus buildings.
The new demand will provide perfect support for future project proposals, further expanding UST’s composting and decreasing our waste and carbon output. If applicable, include lifecycle costs, possible investment payback schedules and potential long-term savings: The lifecycle costs of this project are minimal due to the low costs of maintenance and relatively low initial costs. These compost bins are long-term sustainable investments and are designed for in-home or in-office use. Chester Wilson has been using the same worm bins for more than ten years.
These systems have proved reliable and durable and we are confident in using the Worm Factory worm bins for this proposed project. Although the money saved by sending the waste to the on-campus composting location, instead of having it picked up will be relatively minimal, dealing with much of our own waste in a sustainable and efficient manner right here on campus is a key feature of this project. Self-contained and efficient systems are worth highlighting as they embody a shift from a linear system of use and dispose to a more closed-loop cycle of use, compost, reuse.
There is also great value in the production of the castings as a fertile soil amendment. To date, they have been used in the greenhouses extensively in place of relatively costly potting soils and synthetic fertilizers, which are also much more energy intensive to produce. Appendix A: Appendix B: FAQs: What can be put in the worm bins? The worms are not particularly picky eaters. Too much citrus can be uncomfortable for them, and meat and dairy products are always a risk to compost.
While they are unlikely to hurt the worms, these items tend to be the main culprits for bad smelling compost. When the bins are distributed, the Composting Club will offer a brief training session for each department and their liaison. What if the bin begins to smell bad? As discussed in the video, the Worm Factory bins are designed to allow plenty of oxygen to flow through the system. Keeping the bins aerobic keeps the smell down, and remember that these systems are designed for in-home or in-office use.
In the chance that the bin does begin to smell, the Compost Club Liaisons will have the responsibility of calling the club hotline – we guarantee full removal of smelly bins within 20 minutes of that phone call. Will the bin attract pests/rodents? Rodents signify a much larger problem than the mere presence of a Worm Factory composter. Pests, in particular fruit flies, can pose problems for indoor composting systems. There is actually a simple treatment that can be applied to the medium in the bins (the stuff the worms live in) that repels gnats and flies.
Again, the Composting Club hotline will be the ultimate back-up for any issues with your bin; guaranteed quick removal. Are the bins messy? No. The bins are designed to hold the food waste and to collect the moisture produced. Composting Club will regularly collect the liquid (or Compost Tea) generated by the bins and will also be on-call to respond to any cleanup needs. All processing of finished compost will be conducted off-site in the ASC parking ramp. There, we have to facilities to deal with this slightly more messy process.
Where will the bins be located? This should be determined on a departmental basis. The worms are really tolerant, but cannot be too hot, too cold, or too dry. Basically, by keeping the bins out of the sun, but in a heated/temperature-controlled area, they will be more than fine. The Composting Club will monitor the moisture levels in the bins and make any changes as needed. We recommend that the bins be placed in an easily accessible location – near the most common waste sources whenever possible – but that they remain mostly out-of-sight.
Behind furniture, under counters, or unused storage closets or rooms make ideal locations. What are the responsibilities of the Compost Club Liaison? The liaison will be responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the bins and for calling the Composting Club hot line with any issues. At its most basic, the day-to-day maintenance will consist of collecting your office or department’s daily coffee grounds and adding them to the bin. Nothing about the job should be taxing or burdensome to the individual. Who will be in charge of emptying the bins once they have finished composting?
Once again, the Composting Club will take care of emptying the bins when the compost in the bottom tray of the stack is finished. We will also be regularly monitoring the bins and will therefore know when the trays are ready to be emptied. All processing of finished compost will take place off-site in the ASC parking ramp where we have the facilities for doing so. How long does it take for the food waste to become finished compost? The answer to this question varies depending on the number of worms and the amount and type of food waste present.
I like to think of one tray representing one-two weeks of composting. So a stack of three trays would represent a three-six week composting process. Appendix C: StopWaste. org is the website of a waste management organization located in Alameda county, CA. The organization is in charge of the waste management plan for the county, and the provide a variety of sustainable development plans and waste reduction initiatives for the businesses, schools, government buildings, and local industry in the fourteen cities comprising the county. http://www. stopwaste. us/partnership/calculator/