Students wage war on SF State campus' mess
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Four years ago, when Charlotte Ely found out that the United States produced enough garbage to wrap around the world six times and then reach halfway to the moon, she was determined to make SF State create something with its compost.

Now, a project spearheaded by the environmental studies alumnus, along with ECO Students and the Cesar Chavez Student Center, will blossom by adding new composting bins all throughout the student center starting April 23.

Once the bins are placed, volunteers will staff each station to demonstrate to students how to compost and recycle, said Emily Naud, the student center's sustainable initiatives coordinator.

"Students should be educated on composting and recycling," Naud said. "It helps students to know why they're doing it," adding that it gives them "incentive to help not only themselves out, but the planet as well."

The new bins will not be the first time that SF State started composting initiatives at the student center.

When ECO Students performed a waste audit in spring 2006, Ely said the results were striking and smelly.

"We were knee-deep in the student center's garbage, and it was mostly messy mountains of stale bagels and orange rinds, coffee grinds and paper plates, and murky stir fry, burrito innards and pizza crust mush," Ely said in an e-mail. "Why send all this organic goodness to the landfill to emit methane -- a greenhouse gas 22 times more potent than carbon dioxide -- when it could be composted into a valuable soil amendment?"

ECO Students met with the student center governing board and proposed a three-part proposal for composting with food vendors, collecting in areas where students eat and utilizing compostable foodware.

In fall 2006, food vendors began to compost, leading to composting pilot stations for students, faculty and staff in spring 2007.

Further expanding its composting program, the student center added new bins to the West Plaza in spring 2008.

As of April 23, all of the student center's compost will be collected.

"Our goal is zero waste by 2020, but hopefully before that," Naud said.

Zero waste suggests that the entire concept of waste should be eliminated and instead be thought of as a "residual product" or simply a "potential resource," according to Zero Waste Alliance, a non-profit promoting zero waste strategies.

Ultimately, there is a need to reduce the landfills because they cause pollution to local environments, Naud said.

"From soil and water contamination in the off-gassing of methane, peoples' health are being negatively impacted," she said. "Composting is a zero waste strategy aimed at protecting the environment and peoples' health."

Ely hopes the bins will convey a message.

"Landfills are the largest anthropogenic source of methane," Ely said. "By diverting organics from landfills, we are helping to fight climate change."

But the biggest challenge with having the green bins on the student center floor will be ensuring that students properly dispose of their food scraps, she said.

This is why ECO Students and volunteers will be at each bin station, according to Naud.
Anyone who would like to help monitor and educate others about the bins can e-mail Emily Naud at emilynaud@mac.com.

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PHOTO
John Bird | staff photographer
Luis Alberto (wearing bandana) and Francisco Buillegos (wearing backwards hat) compost disregarded food into green bins on Wednesday at Taqueria Girasol, located in the Cesar Chavez Center. Compost bins are being installed at SF State on April 1 in an eff ort to sort garbage more environmentally.

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