Cycling isn’t just a sport in the Olympics anymore.
Colleges across the country have utilized the environmentally-friendly transportation method as a way to increase composting on campus.
The University of Vermont (UVM) is a new model for schools throughout the U.S. dedicated to eliminating food waste and expanding recycling efforts through bicycle composting programs.
Since 1997, UVM has collected food waste and diverted more than 18,000 pounds of food from landfills every week.
The new pilot program, which began this summer, diverts waste on a much smaller scale when agents bicycle to different locations on campus, collect compost and send it to central collection points.
“Really the program is about being able to collect food waste in areas of campus that we don’t already,” said Erica Spiegel, manager of UVM’s solid waste and recycling program.
Coordinators of the program did not think a truck would work as transportation because of the small amount of compost being picked up at each location — it would not make sense financially.
“I wouldn’t route a truck to pick up a banana peel, but I would route a bike,” Spiegel said.
UVM Recycling teamed up with One Revolution, a local member-owned bicycle collection service, and the UVM Bike Users Group to collect compost from 20 different locations or 30 offices on campus, UVM Communications stated.
“The pilot program is going very well,” Spiegel said. “The staff really likes the program because most of them compost at home already, so they like that they can do it in the office.”
UVM student Jens Pharr said the program has been very successful so far. Pharr is also an employee for One Revolution and member of the Bike Users Group.
“Creating a program that is a model for this kind of infrastructure and relying less on automobile and fossil fuel transport, I would say that’s sort of where the success of this program really lies,” Pharr said.
Although collecting an average of 80 to 100 pounds of food waste each week is much less than what is collected in the dining halls, faculty and staff believe it’s worth the effort.
“The enthusiasm from the offices has been one of the directly rewarding elements of the program,” Pharr said.
The president’s office participated in the program as a way to support the university’s efforts in promoting sustainability and environmental responsibility, said Cindy Lee, senior assistant to the vice president for finance and administration, to UVM Communications.
“So far, our experience has been positive and seamless,” Lee told UVM Communications. “The composting bags take up very little space and really are leak- and odor-proof.”
UVM student Taylor Jones, 20, said sometimes the service makes people think it’s OK to waste food because it won’t end up in a landfill, but still thinks her school does a great job at composting.
“I’ve never been anywhere else where they even have a composting option,” Jones said.
“Anywhere you go to eat on campus there are the three options: garbage, compost and recycle. There is also good information on what should go into each for people who are new to the concept such as myself.”
Another UVM junior, Amanda Gosselin, said composting efforts at school is just another way that UVM shows its commitment to environmental issues. She applauds the new bicycle composting program.
“It’s a good idea,” Gosselin said. “Every little thing helps.”
After the successful summer, Spiegel said she is looking to expand the number of offices participating. Pharr welcomes the idea, saying the amount that they currently collect is well below their capacity.
Pharr also believes this sort of program could be applied to almost any college.
“It’s definitely something that could be supportive at other campuses,” he said. “There are plenty of universities that are even more applicable to the program than UVM.”
Some colleges and universities have already made efforts similar to UVM’s composting program:
Truman State University
Students working as collection agents call themselves “The Rot Riders,” taking to the streets of Kirksville, Mo. and collecting compost from more than 40 houses and apartments since the spring of 2010.
University of Idaho
The Moscow Coffee Compost Project started as a student grant project through the University of Idaho Sustainability Center in 2008 and has grown to become a community institution. Volunteers on bike or foot collect and compost coffee grounds because it is rich in nutrients.
Northern Arizona University
VeloComposting at Northern Arizona University started in February 2012 as a bicycle collection service that diverts food waste from dining halls and cafes to use in campus gardens.
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