The College opens a new composting facility — becoming a model for other institutions around the coutntry.
By Bridget Meeds '91
In ‘greening’ higher education," says Mark Darling ’97 (at left), "the real educational lesson is about waste. You don’t just put it in a bucket and let someone else deal with it. You are responsible for your own." Darling, who is a certified "master composter" with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and a board member of the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling, has been working with physical plant’s composting program since 1995. He’s showing me IC’s newest building — of which he is justly proud. Once it opens this fall, 100 percent of the College’s — and Longview’s — pre- and post-consumer food waste will be processed through it.
Ithaca College is the first institution in the entire country with such a forward-thinking composting program. Darling sees great potential for other universities to use the Ithaca College composting facility as a model — not only for the techniques of waste management, but also for the integration of environmentally conscious behavior into campus life and curricula.
The new green-metal building is nestled into the hillside and seems all of a piece with its place. It has clean lines and a sloping roof reminiscent of the chapel. It sits on the grounds of the former campus stables, which were built where the Miller farm’s pear orchard once stood.
It was financed largely by an Empire State Development grant, which Darling wrote with guidance from Jean Bohotal, a expert from Cornell University’s Waste Management Institute, and Paul Hamill of IC’s Office of Academic Funding and Sponsored Programs. The Ithaca College Board of Trustees approved funds to cover the remainder of the cost.
It should prove to be a sound investment. Composting is an old technique that has gained new importance during the last 10 years. It’s really very simple: food scraps, when combined with yard and animal wastes, decompose naturally and quickly to form a nutrient-rich substance much like dirt. On a household scale, you can take the skins from carrots you grew in your garden this year, toss them in a compost pile, and next year use the resulting rich material to fertilize your new crop of carrots. It’s a lovely circle.
Photos by George Sapio