The University of Arizona

Composting for a Cause

By Tyler J. McDowell-Blanken, University Communications | October 14, 2011

The UA student group leading the charge on campus composting is expanding efforts around and beyond campus.

The UA student-led Compost Cats organization is expanding composting efforts, both on and off campus. (Photo courtesy of Compost Cats), Compost Cats is now collaborating with local businesses for composting. Among the coffee houses and restaurants involved with the UA student group are Bentley's House of Coffee & Tea, Coffee X Change, Lovin' Spoonfuls and Raging Sage Coffee.
The UA student-led Compost Cats organization is expanding composting efforts, both on and off campus. (Photo courtesy of Compost Cats), Compost Cats is now collaborating with local businesses for composting. Among the coffee houses and restaurants involved with the UA student group are Bentley's House of Coffee & Tea, Coffee X Change, Lovin' Spoonfuls and Raging Sage Coffee.
The UA student-led Compost Cats organization is expanding composting efforts, both on and off campus. (Photo courtesy of Compost Cats), Compost Cats is now collaborating with local businesses for composting. Among the coffee houses and restaurants involved with the UA student group are Bentley's House of Coffee & Tea, Coffee X Change, Lovin' Spoonfuls and Raging Sage Coffee.
The UA student-led Compost Cats organization is expanding composting efforts, both on and off campus. (Photo courtesy of Compost Cats), Compost Cats is now collaborating with local businesses for composting. Among the coffee houses and restaurants involved with the UA student group are Bentley's House of Coffee & Tea, Coffee X Change, Lovin' Spoonfuls and Raging Sage Coffee.

Coffee grounds, banana peels and horse manure.

These are among the things the University of Arizona student-led group Compost Cats is gathering.

The group collects post-consumer waste as a source of soil fertilization in an effort to protect the ecosystem. 

This fall, the group has formed partnerships with the UA Student Union Memorial Center and numerous local Tucson businesses to expand the composting effort. 

At the Student Union, restaurants such as Cellar Bistro, Sabor and 3 Cheeses & a Noodle are the most recent to begin composting. Beyond campus in Tucson, Compost Cats has formed partnerships with the likes of Lovin' Spoonfuls and Raging Sage Coffee Roasters.

"So much more is being done today due to the collaborative efforts between students, faculty members and the community," said Chet Phillips, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona's graduate assistant for sustainability. 

Phillips, who supervises the composting project, said he works to help foster enthusiasm for sustainability projects at the UA. Also a graduate student of arid lands resource sciences, Phillips has spent years at the UA collaborating with others on sustainability-related projects around issues such as energy use and water consumption. 

"We'd love to make the student body more aware," Phillips said. "Environmental challenges are among the most pressing of our time."

To ensure that the correct materials are being composted, Phillips and other group members are working to expand their staff volunteers corps through the new Grassroots Group. 

Nicknamed "compost coaches," such individuals are available around the campus restaurants for students who may have questions about what items should or should not be left for composting. 

Those involved in the effort have said they feel they are making an important and viable contribution to campus while gaining a sense of accomplishment. 

"Through the sustainability program, I have learned how to facilitate projects. I really enjoy empowering students and helping them to truly make a difference," said Michele MacMillan, a political science senior and the Sustainability Grassroots program leader. 

The volunteer program, which is in its first year, allows students to gain an understanding of the sustainability opportunities available on campus.

For MacMillan and other group leaders, the importance of leadership and unity simply cannot be overlooked, she said. 

"This year, we wanted a group of people willing to lead their initiatives," said MacMillan.

With fresh ideas and a newfound commitment to collaboration, group members said that the sky seems to be the limit for what they and their collaborators can accomplish.

"It is amazing to do something that you believe in," Phillips said. "This is quite beyond a job for me; I've dedicated my life toward this cause."

Contacts

Chet Phillips

Associated Students of the University of Arizona

520-621-2782

cfp@email.arizona.edu