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Stories

Waste not, want not

May 16, 2007 at 4:22 pm
By Marla Holt

Beth Bennett ’07 (Fair Oaks, California) is co-president of the Student Organization for the Protection of the Environment. As head of a group of students dedicated to bringing composting to the dining halls, she recently submitted a $10,000 grant proposal to the Environmental Protection Agency to fund Carleton’s proposed purchase of an Earth Tub, a fully enclosed composting vessel. The finished compost would be stored at an on-campus curing site for later use in landscaping. Bennett is doing a cost-benefit analysis of composting at Carleton for her ENTS senior comprehensive exercise.

What I've learned

Students in my environmental ethics class studied food waste in the dining halls. I saw pictures of tubs full of disgusting food scraps and wondered, ‘Where does it all go?’ At Burton, it gets flushed into the sewer, using thousands of gallons of water and costing Carleton about $17,000 a year. At East Dining Hall, it’s hauled to the dump.

According to my cost-benefit analysis, it won’t be particularly cost-effectivefor Carleton to compost. That means the College would have to do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Composting is a concrete goal, and I’m good at step-by-step projects. It’s harder to wrap my head around broader issues like changing national energy policy.

Composting is beautiful because it’s so simple. It’s a complete circle that’s very transparent. Waste isn’t being flushed into the water system or going into a landfill where it’s producing methane. It’s being turned into soil for our ground.

Problems that we can solve, we should solve.

It’s hard to change something when it’s easier and possibly cheaper to do it the old way. It takes someone pushing really hard.

College is one of the times when we have the ability to change our surroundings. Carleton is a small, welcoming environment, with a great administration that is receptive to hearing from students. Why wouldn’t students take advantage of that?

I’m ready to be a worker bee for a while and let somebody else do the planning while I figure out in what direction I’d like to take my life. I know I’m always going to keep working on environmental issues.