Worms eat my garbage

Most of us cringe at the sight of worms, especially long red ones, without realizing just how important those red wrigglers are to our environment. Since worms eat large quantities of organic material and can digest up to their body weight every day, they are perfect candidates for making compost.

Project Compost is an ASUCD student-run, student-funded unit with two significant focuses: educating students about the agricultural benefits of compost and taking action by picking up composts from various places on campus and providing it to those who can use it.

“Project Compost diverts about 30,000 pounds of disposable waste from campus each year with the help of our four staff members, interns and volunteers,” said fourth-year environmental policy analysis and planning major and Unit Director Haley Proehl. We pick up compostable material on campus such as [at] the CoHo, botanical conservatory, pomology lab, Salad Bowl garden and coffee kiosks. We also provide guidance for educational compost programs to high schools, colleges and the community.”

Every quarter, there are free events, such as the Backyard Composting workshop and Worm Bin workshops, for members of the community and students who wish to learn about their respective styles of composting. Several methods include vermicomposting, or composting with red worms. There are also educational outreach at events such as Farm to College, Picnic Day and Whole Earth Festival.

“Future endeavors we have planned include fixing up our demonstration site at the Tri Co-ops, including building a three-bin system for people to drop off their food scraps or garden clippings to be composted, and displaying various other structures that are useful for home composting,” Proehl said. “We also plan to have a greater presence at the downtown farmers market come spring time.”

Project Compost is also involved in an event called Recyclemania, which educates students about the university’s zero-waste goal as well as how to reduce the university’s consumption.

“I remember learning about the benefits of compost when I went to one of their meetings early on this quarter,” said third-year animal science and management major Lauren Tseng. “They always inform us about the big events such as Recyclemania and field trip opportunities for the volunteers and interns to places like the Davis recycling center.”

Compost is decomposed organic matter in its various states, but what makes it so useful? Those involved in Project Compost believe that composting will reduce the university’s waste production. Furthermore, compost improves soil structure and minimizes the effects of toxic chemicals remaining in the soil, so composting will ultimately benefit the university.

“We hope that eventually, composting will be as common as recycling. Up to 40 percent of all household waste is compostable, and those nutrients can be turned into compost that is useful for gardening and agriculture,” said fourth-year environmental science and management major and piles director Blake Fitzwater.

According to Fitzwater, Project Compost has been a student-run unit since 1999, created by a group of environmentally oriented students that wanted to divert waste from landfills to be put to good use. It started as a recycling program to divert newspapers, cans and wood, but since UC Davis is an agricultural institution, composting seemed like a good way to divert the various organic materials.

In 2001, the idea was brought to the student government and with a subsequent bill, Project Compost became a reality to allow the university to be more environmentally friendly.

“I ultimately hope to accomplish more connectivity between Project Compost and the residents of Davis. As UC Davis is now Sierra Magazine’s Coolest School, we need to live up to our title and not only preserve the composting programs on our campus and in the city of Davis, but also work to expand them,” Proehl said.

This quarter, the Backyard Composting workshop will be Feb. 9 at 11 a.m. at the Tri Co-ops. The Worm Bin workshop will be Mar. 9, same place and time.

If you are interested in becoming an intern, volunteering or learning about the benefits of compost, email Project Compost at projectcompost@gmail.com.

ALICE LEE can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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