A recent waste audit conducted by Harvard College undergraduates in the Resource Efficiency Program showed that the amount of food found in the freshmen landfill waste stream has decreased significantly with the advent of composting in the dorms of Harvard Yard. Food waste in the landfill stream has decreased by 20% in just three months. “Every freshman dorm is equipped with a compost bin, and it is really making a difference,” stated Rachel Gilchrist, a freshman living in Canaday Hall.
Lara Hirner, a Proctor, reports that overall, her students say that they like having the option to compost. Though many have never previously composted, they're adjusting to how often they need to empty the bins and how to clean them to avoid fruit flies. She also says, "I personally use my compost bin almost every day, and am excited and grateful to live in a community that makes it so easy to lead a sustainable lifestyle that includes a robust recycling and composting program. I've cut down my trash from a large bag every week to a just-barely-full bag bi-weekly between these two programs."
I personally use my compost bin almost every day, and am excited and grateful to live in a community that makes it so easy to lead a sustainable lifestyle that includes a robust recycling and composting program.
The success of the freshman program has stirred interest in Harvard's Houses. The REPs, prepared with interesting facts and trainings on compost, recently held study breaks in Annenberg and the Houses to educate their upperclassmen peers on the benefits of the composting pilot. Each House’s REP made edible dirt cups, consisting of chocolate pudding, oreo crumble, and gummy worms, as a reward for those who came to the study break and played a composting trivia game.
The game asked questions like, “What is the average amount of waste generated by each person in America per day?” and “What percentage of the food waste generated by Americans in 2008 was actually composted?” Many students took their best guesses and were shocked to learn the respective answers of “4.5 pounds” (cleanair.org) and “Americans generated 31.8 million tons of food waste in 2008 and only 2.5 percent was composted.” An Adams’ House Resident, Liz Huber ‘17, said, “These statistics really make me think about my daily impact on the planet. If I consciously think about where I dispose of my waste and whether or not I actually need a product in the first place, I can really contribute to helping divert waste from landfills.”
Every freshman dorm is equipped with a compost bin, and it is really making a difference.
Each REP had over fifty of their peers attend their study breaks and play the compost trivia game. The strong representative of upperclassmen indicates clear support for an expansion of the program and the desire to learn more about the benefits of composting on campus.