"We consume a lot of food here at St. Olaf - - about 80,000 meals a week," Professor of History and Director of American Studies Jim Farrell said.
The organic waste from this much food is surprisingly large: about 1.7 ounces of food per meal. At St. Olaf, this means about 700 pounds of organic waste each day.
The composter, just one part of St. Olaf's recent mission to be more environmentally sound or "greener," helped put St. Olaf on the green map on Sept. 23. Grist Magazine, an online environmental publication, named St. Olaf number four on its list of five efforts causing blips on the environmental radar.
The magazine praised the college's sustainability theme, saying, "Kudos to St. Olaf for taking the initiative and leading in the area of sustainability."
Farrell was excited by the feedback from the Grist List. "It's great to be considered one of the cool things going on right now," he said. He added that many other institutions have found their way to the "Black & Gold & Green" website (www.stolaf.edu/green) and have sent suggestions as well as messages of encouragement.
Economics Department Chair Rebecca Judge believes the Grist ranking to be well-deserved, but stresses that motive matters and is glad that we have moved towards promoting good stewardship because it is a good and right thing to do, and not because we hope to gain recognition for it.
The composter is meant to counter the environmental implications of merely placing food waste into landfills. The Wright In-Vessel composter, installed this summer and initiated in September, is located on North Avenue, north of the main campus and near the St. Olaf natural lands.
"If it works as well as planned, it will prevent the waste of almost 100 tons of garbage a year, as well as providing a rich, fertile compost that can be used on college lands," Farrell said.
The use of the composter is also expected to cut down on garbage removal costs, in addition to reducing the amount of waste in landfills.
Judge sees the composter as an embodiment of St. Olaf's "Ideals to Action" mission. "Here we see the college taking steps to move beyond the rhetoric of environmental values to a physical and financial investment in something that promises both to minimize our environmental impact, and to turn waste into something useful," she said.