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Campus compost for a cause

Sustainability is a popular word. In its simplest definition, it means to maintain a certain rate or level. For ORU’s campus, it means tracking energy, creating compost from Sodexo waste using practical methods and extending those discoveries out to different continents.

Students for Sustainability (S3) is a new club on campus, formed this year with one goal in mind: changing campus culture to include sustainable actions and environmental awareness.

“I wanted the club to become a movement on campus and almost create a culture shift. I want anyone who can and is willing to be involved in any way possible to be involved,” said Anna Mueller, the club president.

Photo by Josh Crow

Previously there have been many clubs’ efforts at ORU toward maintaining campus sustainability. Campus grounds workers help save thousands of dollars by growing and planting their own flowers, not buying them.

David King, the Director of Energy Management of the ORU campus and CitiPlex, also helps ORU save money by overseeing how much energy and water are used on campus. In an online data pool*, people can view a campus map that shows just how much electricity is being used in all the different buildings. King analyzes and then informs faculty on the misuse of energy and helps prevent wasted energy, thus saving money.

S3 intends to exponentially increase those works toward a sustainable awareness on campus.

On Sunday, April 8, the team is officially moving into space behind Towers to create their system. This area attached to the ORU green house was originally used to compost for a former student’s senior project. Mueller says that the team plans to repurpose the area to be a fully functional keyhole composting system.

The keyhole garden concept utilizes a high level of self-sustaining system. First made popular in Africa, it uses single compost and grows plants simultaneously. Utilizing red wiggler worms to break down compost and distribute nutrients through soil, the keyhole gets its name by a circle hole for the compost that sits in the middle of a bed of soil with an outside wall. The bed’s microclimate temperature is tracked, along with the amount of compost weight in pounds being placed into the hole. The full process takes about a month.

Prepping for this sort of endeavor involves obtaining left over fruit, vegetables and other waste from Sodexo and placing it in the center of the keyhole. The compost from this can be used as soil on ORU grounds, or sold to local landscape contractors.

Photo by Josh Crow

Although Sunday is a landmark day for the club, they have been composting since a little before March, tracking all of the metrics and poundage every day. After weighing, the data will go into the sustainable Tulsa scorecard. This website tool allows businesses to see how much money is being saved from preventing food waste. ORU pays for garbage per pound, meaning the university saves money if it uses food waste for composting.

“We want to show the staff and faculty at ORU that we can handle this [project] and move on to big things to make a move on campus,” said club member Taylor Thomas.

Their efforts on campus go much further than ORU and even Tulsa borders. Mueller and another team member, Nathan Feller, have chosen to spend their summer participating in ORU’s Zimbabwe Healing Team. Their work here on campus will reach across the globe to affect communities in Zimbabwe as well.

They intend to create the same keyhole model in Zimbabwe by using their knowledge gathered from the campus prototype.

Along with the compost project, the S3 team has also successfully taken Sodexo’s extra food before breaks and delivered meals to commuters who can take the food home for further use. They have also hosted known speakers such as Carla Grogg from Grogg’s Green Barn, and Nathan Pickard, a conservationist from Hopping House Farms this semester.

While becoming a sustainable campus seems hard and almost impossible, Mueller says, “The easiest part in being sustainable is that everyone can do their part. It takes little by little to make a difference.”