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ISSUE 117 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/14/2003

Waste collected, compost desired

By Jane Dudzinski
News Editor

Friday, November 14, 2003

During meals on Tuesday and Wednesday the Environmental Coalition sponsored an effort to collect excess food from students’ trays on their way out of the cafeteria.

The main purpose of the collection, said Environmental Coalition Co-Head Britt Carlson ’04, was to "find out how much student waste we really have."

Last year, the Environmental Coalition collected 574 pounds of waste during the course of one day. Carlson explained that Hays Atkins, the general manager of Bon Appétit, asked the group to collect waste again this year because he wanted to see less waste in the cafeteria, particularly from an economic standpoint, and to raise awareness of excessive waste.

At an Evironmental Coalition meeting Wednesday, Atkins said that 398 pounds of food were collected that night during dinner.

Another goal of the event was to evaluate the possibility of bringing a commercial composter to the St. Olaf campus.

"We don’t really know how feasible it is yet," Carlson said. She explained that there is currently a sustainability task force comprised of faculty, staff and students that is investigating ways to make the college more energy and food-conscious.

"A composter is a big upfront investment," Atkins said. "But, right now, compostable disposable products aren’t worth the extra cost if we can’t compost."

The current system for disposing food at St. Olaf, according to Atkins, involves a compactor that comes to campus three times per week. During the 36 to 37 weeks of the year that school is in session, it costs the school approximately $5,000-6,000 to compact the cafeteria’s trash.

Overall, student reaction to collecting cafeteria waste was mixed, said Carlson.

"There were people who really appreciated it and said they had been thinking about it themselves, and there were also people who didn’t want to participate," said Carlson. "We want people to think about it, but we don’t want to offend them."

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