Welcome to the Rocket Composter

The Rocket

The Rocket Composter at it's current location at the Student Union loading dock.

Just in time for spring, Fort Lewis College is becoming “greener”. It began at the Student Operations Summit in fall of 2009, when students declared sustainability a top priority for future funds. A study done in 2010 unveiled that Fort Lewis College students generated a collective .24 lbs of waste during each meal. Over the 31 weeks in academic year, the cumulative waste generated is 102.977. Based on this knowledge, the students decided their college’s waste problem was a pressing issue. Thus began a search for a composting system that could meet the sizable demands. Now after a long period of gathering support, funds, and research, the Rocket Composter is now up and ready to run. This new edition is predicted to eliminate 75,907 lbs of discarded food per academic year. This is waste that would otherwise occupy a landfill. This huge stride in waste management has helped the school meet its goal to reduce food waste by 70%, one of many goals found in the college’s Suitability Action Plan.

Presently, large-scale composting is relatively uncharted terrain. The United States has only nine campuses with Rocket Composters, making Fort Lewis a pioneer in campus composting. The composter is partly operated by the student organization the Environmental Center, providing unique opportunities for environmentally minded students to work with and learn from the composter.

Collaboration makes operation of the Rocket Composter possible.  Sedexo’s participation has been the key in making the the compost dream a reality. Their staff sorts the disposed food from the dishes, putting it into their pulper machine, and preparing it for its micro-organismic journey to become compost. Sedexo’s eagerness to work with the school’s Environmental Center has created a great climate for positive change on Campus.  We hope that our partnered success sets an example for other campuses, communities and businesses to explore the benefits of large scale composting.

~ Melanie Weber-Sauer

Driven to act: The EC’s Waste Audit makes local news

Waste Audit 2010 - The Durango Herald - STEVE LEWIS

Driven to act

Environmental Center’s new coordinator ready to work

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald Staff Writer

The new coordinator of the Environmental Center at Fort Lewis College wants to strengthen ties with students, community members and campus administrators in promoting sustainability.

Sustainability drives Rebecca Schild, who said the FLC post she took in June seemed “too good to be true.”

She received an undergraduate degree in international sustainable development from Colorado College and a master’s degree in environmental management and a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University.

Schild’s master’s project centered on institutionalizing sustainability at Colorado College, where she developed and coordinated a peer-education network.

“We’re looking forward to continuing collaboration with many groups,” Schild said Tuesday.

Schild has her hands full.

The Environmental Center has 30 work/study students divided into six teams to tackle various aspects of sustainability – local food; climate action; sustainable business; media and communications; educational outreach to campus, community and schools; and zero waste.

Each team can have several projects under way at the same time, she said.

“The Environmental Center played an important role in moving the campus to adopt a sustainability action plan,” Schild said.

The administration has made a strong effort to be environmentally conscious, Schild said. Among the ways:

The campus is a signatory to the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, which promotes efforts to manage climate change.

New construction is designed for sustainability. Animas Hall, a student residence, has Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, called LEED, certification, and two others – the Student Union addition and Berndt Hall – are aiming for the same designation.

Nonpotable water irrigates landscape.

The first full-time teaching position in environmental studies has been hired as a result of student interest in the field.

Schild, who chairs the president’s advisory council on environmental affairs, is the link between students and the administration. Professors, a physical plant representative and community members also sit on the council.

Students’ support for Environmental Center projects is evident, Schild said. They voted to pay a nickel extra for each credit-hour they take, a surcharge that raises about $5,000 a year for projects.

Other student-proposed projects are taking shape, Schild said. Among them:

A campus demonstration garden from which participants share the harvest could be formalized to provide planned distribution through a food bank.

A student proposal to compost dining hall waste is being studied.

The elimination of plastic water bottles and the installation of a hydration station is under review.

Schild is looking forward to moving from the trailers that house the Environmental Center to new quarters in the Student Union next year.

daler@durangoherald.com

Source: http://durangoherald.com/article/20101104/NEWS06/711049983/Driven-to-act