One man’s waste is another man’s mulch: college to construct new compost building on campus

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By David Hurtado

The college’s Center for Sustainability is planning to build a compost shed to store the waste produced on campus and other equipment used on the college’s farm.

The shed, which will cost approximately $50,000, will be built south of the parking lot that sits behind the Police Academy and Horticulture Science Center. Jay Antle, executive director of sustainability, said most of the cost will be paid for by the federal government.

“The building itself, the composter and the solar panels, 75 percent of those costs are coming from federal dollars from the Department of Energy,” Antle said. “So this will be a very low cost to the actual college itself.”

The compost shed, which is expected to be completed by June, will house an industrial composter, sawdust, woodchips, the compost itself and possibly a compost tea maker in the future. The shed will also be shared with Sustainable Agriculture, who will store their gardening materials and a small tractor.

In an effort to produce a more energy efficient building, Michael Rea, recycling coordinator, said the compost shed is planned to be constructed entirely out of recycled steel. Metal construction has green characteristics such as recyclability and durability that can reduce the amount of materials necessary for the building envelope. The solar panels will be installed by students in the solar program to give them a chance to practice their trade.

Although the thought of composting waste brings to mind images of foul smelling air for some people, Rea said students will not have to worry about smelling the composter’s contents. Unless students were to stick their nose directly into the composter, the smell should not be an issue.

“It is so far away from the campus that no student would really be out there anyways,” Rea said. “The idea with smell is that with the correct formulas when you mix them with the food waste and sawdust you don’t end up with any kind of smell. Honestly, it doesn’t have any more smell than the compacters that are actually sitting right next to the buildings.”

Rea said he was very excited that the college would soon have a compost building. It would give the Center for Sustainability a better touring facility for people who want to see how the composting process works.

“The child center is really excited about being able to bring over the kids to see how compost works,” Rea said. “Right now they take their food inside their classrooms and when they’re done with it they put [the leftovers] into their own bucket and then we take it out for them. So they are really excited to see where their food goes because at this point it just kind of goes away.”

Not everyone on campus is thrilled about the college’s continuing efforts to go green, though. Elisabeth Barnes, student, said she believed that the economic costs should also be considered.

“I think it’s important for them to have green economic choices, but for the college to go completely green, that costs a lot of money that could be used somewhere else,” Barnes said. “Going green is pretty expensive.”

While animals such as raccoons or rats could be attracted to the smells emanating from the industrial composter, Antle said he doubts that there will be problems with animals trying to burrow into the compost shed.

“The compost is pretty well sealed,” Antle said. “We haven’t had any problems out where we’ve had the composter already and that’s more open than the compost shed is going to be. My guess is if some enterprising critter tried to get into the composter, they would rue the day.”

Contact David Hurtado, reporting correspondent, at dhurtado@jccc.edu.

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