News

December 9, 2009

Students Work Toward a College-Wide Sustainable Food Loop

Their goal is to compost and reuse all food waste generated by Lafayette dining services

A team of students in Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection and the Society of Environmental Engineers and Scientists have been working toward the goal of a large-scale, campus-wide sustainable food loop.

Through composting, community gardens, and solar panel projects, the team plans to have the campus community consume vegetables that are grown organically on campus, compost the waste generated by dining services, and then use the finished compost in the gardens to grow more organic food.

As well as providing the manpower and know how to accomplish the project, the team is also working to educate the Lafayette and Easton communities about the benefits of food waste composting.

Student leaders for the projects include civil engineering major Mickey Adelman ’10 (Clarks Summit, Pa.), geology major Jennifer Bell ’11 (Purcellville, Va.), civil engineering major Emily Clark ’12 ( Kendall Park, N.J.), and mechanical engineering major Britta Moore ’12 (Temple, N.H.). Art Kney, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, serves as the team’s adviser.

“The faculty, administration, alumni, students, and staff that have seen the composting project plans have been very helpful and enthusiastic as we work toward campus sustainability,” says Clark. She notes that George Xiques, manager of sustainability and environmental planning; Mitchell Wein, vice president of business affairs and treasurer; and Joseph Binotto, director of dining services, have been particularly supportive.

The College has received a $68,000 grant from the Ludwick Family Foundation and a $41,000 Compost Infrastructure Grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which will allow the program to expand significantly. The grant will fund the installation of two Earth Tub composting units and monitoring equipment, which will make it possible to compost up to 1,000 pounds of food and yard waste a day.

Currently, the operation composts only a fraction of the estimated 1,300 pounds of food waste that Lafayette’s dining facilities produce daily. The new equipment will be installed and running during the spring semester. Students will operate the equipment and will establish a set of procedures that the Office of Plant Operations can use to oversee the program.

“These grants will make it possible to compost tons more–literally–of the food waste produced at Lafayette,” says Bell.

The finished compost is used to enrich the soil in campus flowerbeds and is used in the College’s new community gardens at Metzgar Fields. Bell and David Brandes, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, successfully applied for a Clinton Global Initiative grant that helped get the community garden project underway.

Over the summer and fall, gardeners harvested the first crops grown on the plot and are now starting to think about spring planting. Half of the two-acre community garden is maintained by students in the Lafayette Organic Gardening club, who grow food that is destined for the dining halls. Bell has been working with dining services closely throughout the duration of the project to make this possible. The other acre is a community garden in which many faculty, staff, administrators, and students have their own 20×40 foot plots.

“I absolutely love the community garden because it’s just a great thing to see people from all over campus (and their families) coming together in the evenings to grow their own food,” Bell says. Last summer, 26 plots were used, and next year the garden will expand to make more plots available to the Lafayette community.

The sustainable food loop is complemented by a new sustainable energy source. Following the 2009 Sustainable Energy Conference held on campus this summer, photovoltaic solar panels were installed at the Metzgar Fields. The Sustainable Energy Fund of Allentown, Pa., awarded Lafayette a $15,000 grant to construct and install a three-kilowatt solar array at the site. The energy generated by the solar panels feeds into the electrical grid, adding a renewable source of electrical power.

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