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Utah State University Receives Funding to Expand Campus-wide Composting

Mulch is a useful topdressing around garden beds and trees at Utah State University
Riana Gayle

Utah State University is one of 19 universities being awarded the 2017-2018 PepsiCo Recycling Zero Impact Fund. The fund recognizes projects with green initiatives.

Alexi Lamm is the sustainability coordinator at USU. She worked with the school's landscaping group and others to write the grant to expand USU’s composting capacity. 

“So the university has a composter that’s been operating for a few years and it’s been really successful," Lamm said. "I think we compost something like 29 tons of food per year and then we match that with a bulking agent which is woodchips.”

The food waste and wood chips are sourced from USU’s campus to create a rich and organic mulch, used as top-dressing in the university’s garden beds. However, the addition of a wood grinder will diversify the use of the compost. 

“If we can grind our wood chips up and make them smaller then we can actually create an organic fertilizer that we can spread on the grass,” said Shane Richards, the landscape operations and maintenance manager for USU.

With the recent funding, he says the new wood grinder will be added in the next couple weeks.

“Our goal is to save probably about $16,000 a year in fertilizers,” Richards said.

The organic soil will replace chemical fertilizer use on campus and is also expected to have added benefits for the soil.

“It adds almost a loamy soil profile to it, so not only does it give the fertilizer [a boost], but it helps build up a better soil profile so eventually we’ll be using less water and it will hold nutrients better,” Richards said.

USU’s sustainability office is also piloting a pre-consumer compost bin on campus in hopes of getting more individuals involved with green efforts.