Last week, people walking around campus wearing green capes grabbed students’ attention. It had nothing to do with superheroes, but something a little more down to earth: composting. As said by the event organizer, Osha Morningstar, “[Composting Week] is an opportunity for students, staff and faculty to learn more about composting awareness at Bellevue College.” Some may wonder why an entire week was dedicated to helping students learn about composting or why composting is even important.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Compost has the ability to help regenerate poor soils. The composting process encourages the production of beneficial micro-organisms (mainly bacteria and fungi) which in turn break down organic matter to create humus. Humus—a rich nutrient-filled material—increases the nutrient content in soils and helps soils retain moisture. Compost has also been shown to suppress plant diseases and pests, reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, and promote higher yields of agricultural crops.”
Besides being good for plants, another benefit of composting is the potential impact on landfills nationwide. According to eartheasy.com, around one-third of all material thrown into North American landfills are compostable materials. Not unlike several decades ago when recycling was not as prevalent, composting has yet to really get into the public consciousness.
Not everything is compostable however, some things that appear compostable may harm the beneficial bacteria behind the process. To help educate students as to what is compostable on campus, Osha provided a small list of products from the BC cafeteria that can easily be composted at school, including brown cafeteria plates, clear to-go salad bar containers, coffee cups and lids, soda cups, knives, forks and brown straws. The color of the straws is named specifically to indicate that they are compostable.
Keeping an individual compost pile at home allows families to benefit from composting, namely, access to high quality soil nutrients and reducing waste thrown away and sent to the landfill. Table scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, any dead plant material and shredded cardboard can be composted as well. Newspaper can be composted as long as there are no colored inks, shredding it beforehand will facilitate the process a well. Some households are provided compost bins that are picked up every two weeks, information is available online on composting services across King County. Individuals that do not have composting services provided or wish to keep a long-term compost bin can buy a purpose-built composter or make a homemade version.
For those who would like to know more about composting, the Office of Sustainability can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.