The Washington Compost

By: Sophia Lin

Now that the pilot of GWU’s first residential food waste diversion has been completed, there’s been enough time to look back and realize that with all the hard work and collaboration that went into this project, it’s worth it. It’s so incredibly rewarding to go out and create the change you want to implement!

In launching this commitment, I wanted to address how waste is collected and diverted. Food waste diversion for composting would empower the university to following through on its commitment to zero waste, as well as make financial sense in saving the university costs in the long-run. By sending food waste to local sites in Maryland where they could be converted into fertile compost, generating both financial and literal growth, GWU can make greater strides towards becoming a leader in sustainability right in our nation’s capital.

I couldn’t do this alone, either. Along the way, I found a driven and passionate partner who wanted to make sustainability changes and fight climate change in Frank Fritz, and later, the equally driven and hard-working Celeste Aguzino, joining our leadership team.

With the help of starting funds provided by the GW Upstart grant, we were able to procure the necessary materials to begin, such as food waste bins, compostable liners, and compostable food items like apples and tea bags for our educational training and launch party. Later on, we had the generous assistance from the Student Association to continue our project.

We completed an eight-week pilot project in food waste diversion in Hensley Hall, on GWU’s Mount Vernon campus. The results were very successful in demonstrating that community engagement, basic education training, and consistent communications with all stakeholders involved, can lead to a successful food waste diversion program at the university.

Along the way, it has been great to receive the support from all these stakeholders in the university community. In addition, the students who we had the chance to work with – the fantastic residents, resident advisors, and Resident Hall Association members of Hensley Hall who agreed to carry out the pilot food waste diversion, the university staff that helped with logistics of moving out the food waste with their main waste collection, and the university recycling coordinator and division’s support from the start, it has been a major team and community effort.

We also were fortunate enough to generate some publicity, with coverage by GW Today and the GW Hatchet that helped spread the word on this initiative and the university’s sustainability efforts!

http://www.gwhatchet.com/2015/02/09/hensley-residents-could-soon-compost-apple-cores-coffee-grounds/

http://gwtoday.gwu.edu/gw-moves-needle-zero-waste-introduces-composting-j-street?utm_source=GW_MainSite&utm_medium=GW_Today_Rotator&utm_campaign=GW_Today_Rotator

The goals for continuation and expansion of university food waste diversion are long-term goals. It’s been an exciting ride, especially for the team carrying on The Washington ComPost organization, in growing with it as it evolves into a peer education network for not just within our university, but in connecting with other Washington, DC area universities as well.

Our Facebook page is up and running, continuing to report on the progress of the initiative! Check it out at www.facebook.com/washingtoncompost!

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The hard-working, change-making team has grown, with Frank Fritz, Celeste Aguzino, and Sabrina Freese heading up the organization since my time at GWU. They had the chance to take The Washington ComPost with them as they competed in Climathon, a hackathon-style competition to generate city solutions to tackling climate change, placing as a semifinalist! The Washington Compost will continue moving forward and expanding its mission, with support from GWU’s Office of Sustainability.

All of this was a simple idea to start, and now this commitment has continued to move forward and grow! I hope that this marks the start of a longer-term, positive impact in how our university and greater Washington, DC community more sustainable manage waste and move towards a greener, more sustainable future.

Colonials Compost

By Sophia Lin

I believe that it simply makes a lot of sense to create something so good, in the form of valuable, fertile soil, rather than something so bad, in the form of methane gas released into the atmosphere, from food we’re ready to throw out.

I am thankful for CGI U and the people I have had a chance to work with, from GW’s own social innovation coordinator, to my project partner who is also passionate about sustainability, all spurring me to take real action in addressing the issue of large-scale lack of composting at GW in the greater Washington, DC area.

My initiative, a student residential composting pilot, is to start a program on food waste diversion and composting. There are certainly a few major challenges to getting a composting system started. One is infrastructure. Bins of compost need to be made available to people, picked up, and delivered to composting facilities. A second obstacle is norms. Most people’s behavior and mindset may need to change in order for successful food waste diversion, the first step towards composting, to be a success.

The results of the pilot would hopefully be successful and lead to a pivotal report to show GW that residential composting is not only possible, but that it can also be scaled up and housed within the university’s facilities operations and sustainability goals. As one of DC’s largest employers and educators, this move would mark a major shift in creating a more environmentally-aware and sustainable culture among students, make the school a major stakeholder in demanding more land and facilities for the presently insufficient large-scale infrastructure for DMV composting, and help generate a mainstreamed dialogue and behavioral shift towards better use of resources.

I am excited that this project is a reality, and I will continue to monitor and adapt this project so that it can be as successful as possible. Having researched best practices, created a plan, and reached out to relevant stakeholders like university administrators and facilities staff, as well as student organizations and the dorm residents living in the selected pilot hall, this composting program just began last week!

The opportunity to attend the CGI U conference was awesome to get to be immersed in a super-saturated environment of inspirational, game-changing individuals who want to help create a positive impact. This energy is something I hope to continue embodying as I complete my commitment to action, as well as in my future aspirations and goals.