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Composting Program in Yard Boasts Mostly Positive Results Thus Far

One month after being implemented in all freshman dormitories, the new composting program run by Green ’17, a group of students from the Class of 2017 focused on sustainability issues on campus, is yielding mostly positive feedback.

The initiative began in August after a successful pilot this spring in Greenough and Mower halls; it places compost bins in all of the freshman dormitories on campus.

Using a door-to-door random sample survey, student representatives from Green ’17 and the Resource Efficiency Program estimated that about half of the freshman class is actively using the compost bins, while only an estimated ten rooms out of all of the freshman dorms are having issues with the program.

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Composting Initiative
Compost bins, like the one shown above in Thayer Hall, have been placed in all of the freshman dormitories as part of a new waste-diversion program.

Conducted in mid-September, the survey collected self-reported responses from individuals from 78 rooms to assess whether they were using the compost bins in their dormitories and how effective the program was. Of the rooms questioned, 77 responded that they had not experienced issues, while one said they had issues with bag availability and an infestation.

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The random survey conducted by student representatives attempted to reflect the number of students in each dormitory, covering every dormitory except for Massachusetts Hall. While Cliff F. W. Goertemiller ’17, co-head of Green ’17, said that the surveyors were not able to obtain a perfect balance in their survey results, the survey enabled a “ pretty balanced assessment.”

Fiona M. Davis ’18, a freshman representative for the Resource Efficiency Program, said students have been “really positive” about the composting initiative as the program tries to work out the kinks.

“I think at first people kind of were a little bit confused…but now that it’s been going on for about a month now I think people are really getting invested in it,” Davis said.

The Freshman Dean’s Office has also been pleased with the program’s results and is hopeful for its future. Davis added that the Resource Efficiency Program and Green ’17 hope to bring the program to the upperclassman Houses after it evaluates the success of program in freshman dormitories.

Some students, though, have reported issues with their compost bins, citing fruit fly infestations as an obstacle to successful composting.

Moses Kim ’18 and his roommates returned their compost bin to the trash room in his dorm after experiencing an infestation, he said.

“We would leave food in the compost bin, and I think we had a fruit fly infestation inside the bin, so we had to open it and shut it really quickly,” he said. “It was a hygienic issue mostly.”

Kim added that his room would be willing to compost if the infestation issue was remedied.

Rebecca A. Greenberg ’18, a Hollis resident, said she uses her compost bin every day regardless of the presence of fruit flies.

The Resource Efficiency Program is making compost-friendly cleaning supplies available in all the trash rooms in response to these problems. These supplies will include vinegar-filled spray bottles, paper towels, and compostable gloves.

Jasmine M. Waddell, resident dean of Elm Yard, said that the program works well for students who have previously been exposed to composting as well as for those that are just being introduced now.

“We have really created a demand so that when students move to the [upperclassman] Houses, they are going to expect [composting],” Waddell said.

—Staff writer Kristina D. Lorch can be reached at klorch@college.harvard.edu.

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