Reducing the Waste Stream: Bringing Environmental, Economical, and Educational Composting to a Liberal Arts College

EPA Grant Number: SU833564
Title: Reducing the Waste Stream: Bringing Environmental, Economical, and Educational Composting to a Liberal Arts College
Investigators: Kanazawa, Mark , Dornfelt, Tess
Current Investigators: Kanazawa, Mark , Melton, Ali , Bosworth, Claire , Bansberg, Claire , Rothman, Jesse , Sawtell, Shaun
Institution: Carleton College
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: May 31, 2006 through September 30, 2008
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Composting, the taking of select organic material and converting it into usable soil, is one small part in transforming into a world of people who pay attention to the complete lifecycles of the products they consume. Carleton College does not compost the food waste from its two dining halls. Approximately 340,756 pounds of food waste are either flushed down the sewer or transported to the landfill each year at an annual cost of $25,025.00.


We will conduct a pilot program using one Green Mountain Technologies Earth Tub and pre-consumption food waste as a first step toward a comprehensive composting system. Monitoring the Earth Tub will investigate the environmental benefits of this composting system (waste-stream reduction, water conservation, energy conservation, and the production of usable, nutrient-rich compost). Also, the research will examine economic benefits (minimized sewer costs, minimized water costs, minimized fertilizer costs). Measurement methods include daily weighing of food waste and recording temperature, C:N ratios, and moisture in the Earth Tub to ensure quality compost and build institutional memory. We will measure monthly fuel usage and labor hours, in conjunction with water, electricity, and sewage bills, to determine the economic success of the project (cost-benefit analysis). This project will be integrated into the curriculum and larger Northfield community through student independent research projects with Professor Kanazawa and other professors in the Environmental Studies Department, while art students will decorate and publicize the composting program, and students interested in teaching will design lesson plans for local elementary schools. Articles explaining P3 concepts applied to the built environment will be posted in the school newspaper, local newspaper, and on the school sustainability website, promoting sustainability on campus and beyond, with an emphasis on applied, interdisciplinary solutions.

Expected Results:

We hypothesize that composting this waste would be environmentally, economically, and educationally beneficial to the college.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006
  • 2007
  • Final Report