Maloney and Ward (1973) suggested that "a crisis of maladaptive human behavior" is at the root of sustainability problems. A maladaptive behavior that could be corrected rather easily is treatment of organic waste, often called food scraps. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that of the 35 million tons of food scraps generated in the United States in 2010, 97% went to landfills (where they contribute to climate change by the generation of methane emissions) or incinerators (where their high water content decreases the efficiency of the operation). A solution to the problem is readily available: aerobic digestion, nature’s solution for handling discarded organic matter by recycling it, has existed for billions of years.
Kean University is the home to a custom-designed, state-of-the-art, aerobic in-vessel digester that turns nearly 75 tons of food scraps annually into compost--a rich, organic soil amendment that restores vital nutrients to soils used to grow ornamental as well as food producing plants. According to the EPA, each ton of food scraps composted with the type of technology used at Kean results in one metric ton reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. If all of the food scraps generated in the U.S. in just one year were to be composted, the resultant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be the equivalent of eliminating over 6 million cars from the roads.
Using Kean’s composting project as case study, this session will focus on a) promoting the necessary collaborations among campus facilities, academic programs, and the food service providers; b) organizational and motivational aspects of getting students involved in ways that will encourage their green behavior off-campus now and in the future, and c) how other institutions may embrace a similar opportunity.
Conference attendees who plan to participate in this breakout session are asked to add this event to their personal schedules (below) to help with discussion planning.
Fred Provenza, Ph.D., is emeritus professor of Wildland Resources at Utah State University, and author or co-author of more than 250 publications in peer-reviewed journals and books. Dr. Provenza began his career working on a ranch near Salida, CO, while earning a bachelor's degree in wildlife biology from Colorado State University. He earned a master's degree and Ph.D. in range science while working as a technician and research assistant at Utah State University. He joined the faculty of Utah State University in 1982. .
Nicholas Smith-Sebasto, Ph.D., is executive director of the Center for Sustainability Studies at Kean University in New Jersey. Recognized as a global leader in environmental education, he received the North American Association for Environmental Education’s 2012 Outstanding Contributions to Research Award. Dr. Smith-Sebasto has published more research articles in the Journal of Environmental Education than any other author in the 40-year history of the journal. Dr. Smith-Sebasto’s research and teaching interests concern sustainability science and technologies, specifically food and organics recycling, and Earth-sheltering architecture. An aerobic in-vessel digestion system he designed composts more nearly 75 tons of food waste generated annually at Kean University.