by Zac Bransby, Green Student Intern | November 17, 2015
The University of Mississippi’s compost program began in 2013 and has since composted more than 40,000 pounds of food waste. Prior to the creation of this program, all campus food waste was thrown away. The better solution to getting rid of food is to compost the waste because it reduces the university’s carbon footprint.
In September 2015, I joined the compost program because I wanted to have an impact on campus by repurposing food waste. This green outlook on life has definitely increased my awareness for environmental issues around campus and around the world. Before I started this internship, I did not have a clear understanding of what compost was or how different factors affect ecological systems. I really enjoy this internship as a compost team member because I get to see how food waste gets turned into nutrient-rich soil on a regular basis. I like the internship because of how it connects students with the environment in a positive manner.
The compost team is composed of five people who go to the Rebel Market, RC, and Grill at 1810 to pick up food waste, and we weigh and measure the compost buckets for data. Then, we take them to the Medicinal Plant Garden and cover the waste with dry materials. The compost piles are watered and turned throughout the semester to keep suitable conditions. Data shows that we have composted over 6,000 pounds of food waste just this semester.
Through this composting internship, I have come to learn the benefits it has over the alternative of taking food waste to a landfill. More than 97 percent of food waste generated ends up in the landfill. In a landfill, this food undergoes anaerobic decomposition which means that because municipal solid waste is buried in a landfill, it will produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. A compost pile, on the other hand, undergoes aerobic decomposition. Because it is exposed to oxygen, either by turning the piles or through the use of living organisms, the food waste produces carbon dioxide instead of methane.Composting is also important because it contributes to controlling water run-off and naturally fertilizes soil.
I have also been able to sustain a healthier lifestyle throughout this internship because I am aware of the consequences that will harm the environment. I have found that promoting volunteer events around campus like the Sift-A-Thon, during which we sifted finished compost, and Food Day gets people’s attention. When people see what the Office of Sustainability is doing, they start to realize the effects we have on our environment. I am glad to be a compost member of the Office of Sustainability because being able to conserve energy and waste is so important. To me, the compost program is more than an internship; it is a learning experience for the future.
About the author: Zac Bransby is a senior chemistry major and environmental studies minor at Ole Miss. He was born in England, but moved to Olive Branch, Mississippi when he was eight years old. Zac chose to join the UM Compost Team because he wanted to help keep the earth’s ecosystems free of harmful pollution, litter, and carbon emissions. He finds it fascinating that the compost team’s daily duties affect the environment in a positive way. Zac enjoys learning about different renewable resources and how each resource contributes to a sustainable lifestyle.