One of the most important questions raised by the food system is what to do with excess food. Food rescue is an emerging option; however, Furman University prefers to offset its environmental impact by composting its excess food.
Furman composts all of its pre-consumer and post-consumer waste from the Dining Hall at an organic garden on campus called the “Furman Farm“. The Farm receives food scraps that never make it onto the Dining Hall floor as well as leftover scraps from students’ plates after they have finished eating.
In this process, food that is normally left to rot in a landfill is given a “second chance” as nourishment for soil that is used to grow food.
Why does Furman compost?
Furman generates approximately 25 – 27 tons of compost annually. The university composts on such a wide scale for multiple reasons. First and foremost, the compost is used to grow organic food at the Furman Farm where student workers and volunteers learn about organic gardening. The student position of Compost Fellow rotates every year so that interested students can get exposure to compost science.
Although the quarter-acre garden is not large enough to supply the Dining Hall with food, it provides an excellent teaching model for sustainable gardening practices. An active composting program is an integral part of that model.
Secondly, as part of the President’s Climate Commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Furman uses its composting program as one of its carbon offsets. Furman University measures up fairly well in its environmental ratings. The fact that all pre- and post- consumer food waste from the Dining Hall goes into bettering Furman’s environment – as opposed to stinking up a landfill – is one of the reasons that rating is high.
Why is compost good for the planet?
(And what role do universities play?)
Compost is the easiest way to offset food that would otherwise rot in a landfill and push it towards a constructive end. When unused food is composted it is not wasted. It gets to contribute to a new cycle of growth. Compost returns much needed nutrients to soil that is becoming increasingly depleted from modern agriculture practices.
College campuses allow a space for composting to reach almost industrial levels. Although, there are many examples of composting systems or startups that have gained popularity in US cities, there are few examples of colleges or universities leading the charge in composting. With such widespread environmental engagement – whether from powerful chartered groups or from grassroots initiatives – it only makes sense that composting should be more prevalent on higher ed campuses.