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Leftover Lessons

Students use food waste to develop composting system for campus’ permaculture garden

As he watched the dishes with discarded food make their way along the conveyor belt, Bridgewater State University junior Will Halben was intrigued.

“I wondered where the food went,” said Halben, who is majoring in marketing with a minor in sustainability. “It was a lot of food waste.”

After talking with Sodexo, BSU’s dining service, he learned it ended up in dumpsters outside the dining halls.

With Sodexo’s permission, Halben brought bags to the dumpsters and filled them with food scraps which he then repurposed into compost for his personal garden.

“I realized how much abundance there was and that I could use it somewhere else,” he said. “If I didn’t do this, that food ends up in a landfill and contributes to methane emissions and can’t properly break down.”

Inspired to do more, Halben teamed up with Matt Potvin, ’23, to further the composting cause.

Potvin, a biology major, is involved with BSU’s permaculture garden, which is located near the Miles and DiNardo residence halls, and together with Halben came up with a plan to install a closed composting system to benefit the garden using the discarded food.

“The system is used to re-fertilize the soil,” Potvin said. “The compositing system already has microorganisms in the soil, as we add compost these will breakdown and distribute. We won’t need to add anything from an outside source.”

The project is supported through the BSU Sustainability Program.

“Matt and Will are largely in charge of this compositing initiative, my role is to supply materials and communicate with Sodexo,” said geography Professor and Sustainability Program Co-Coordinator Robert Hellstrom. “The goal is to create a compost learning space on campus that’s visible.”

Educating the campus community is probably the most important part of the project, Halben said.

“We are trying to design and show how inexpensive it can be to compost, how it helps the environment,” he said.

There soon will be a sign with a QR code near the garden, that will explain how others can get involved.

“The intention is to spread awareness of more sustainable living to students on campus so they can better help themselves, the environment and put into action sustainable practices such as composting,” Potvin said.

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