UTD’s Office of Sustainability has partnered with Turn Compost to provide accessible compost bins to students on campus.
Starting in 2018, Student Government’s Green Initiative Committee collaborated with the Office of Sustainability, Facilities Management and Housing to establish a composting program for students. In 2022, they collaborated with Turn Compost, an organization that provides resources for people to pick up composting. Since UTD has been making an active effort to improve sustainability on campus, The Mercury checked in on how the program has been working since its inauguration.
Composting is a natural process in which organic materials such as food waste are broken down and turned into soil or fertilizer high in nutrients. Collecting this organic material separately rather than throwing it out with regular trash can help divert waste from landfills and give back to the Earth.
UTD’s new sustainability initiatives include community gardens, bee apiaries and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified buildings. A key part of this campaign was increasing student involvement. By implementing a composting program, the Office of Sustainability can engage more students to be cognizant of their impact on the environment. Prashanth Boda, the Eco Representative who oversees the compost bins, said that an understanding of accountability often inspires composting.
“Why is it done? Why does anyone compost? Because they feel responsible about the environment … If they can divert it from going into landfill, that’s a success. So the intention [with] which people come into this program, that’s the beautiful part for me,” Boda said.
The first step for students to participate in residential composting is completing an online training and post-quiz, which teaches participants what goes in compost containers, how to manage the food caddies and how to acquire a combination lock for securing the containers. Boda said that many students enter the program without this information.
“Even though it has been there for a long time, it sounded pretty new to me because right now with all the modernization that’s happening, we are not aware of [the composting process] … Composting is just a natural phenomenon, and being aware of that and participating in it … that’s why I encourage people to participate in composting,” Boda said.
After the training is complete, students can pick up their compost bins from locations specified in the video. There are eleven drop off locations for composted food waste located throughout Canyon Creek, Northside, University Village, residence halls and the campus, a map of which can be found on the Office of Sustainability’s website.
“Composting, I would say, is just like a tiny portion of what sustainability is … so you’re just a small part, but still it plays an important part,” Boda said.
If students would like to participate in sustainability in other forms, they can apply for the Office of Sustainability’s Sustainability Honors Program and sign up for the newsletter. This program allows students to submit their volunteer hours applying to any of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and get recognized at graduation for their service. The Office of Sustainability also provides a list of other volunteer opportunities on their website, both in-person and virtual.
“It’s just wonder, like you get to experience nature through your eyes,” Boda said. “When we start composting on a personal level, [we] get to see maybe on day one you kept all the waste … and after two months, when the compost is ready, when you go and see it, it’s no longer that [same] waste.”