Composting at Georgia College

The March 2015 Green Bag Discussion was facilitated by Susan Daniels, Assistant Director for Landscaping and Grounds.  Susan led a discussion on the production and usage of organic materials at Georgia College, including the installation of a new industrial food waste composter and the school garden at West Campus.

Susan has been at Georgia College for over 25 years, and she recalled in 1994 when the school first began saving money and labor by incorporating grass clippings, leaves and straw, and soil amendment into a ‘cosmetic pine straw’ that was applied to landscaping beds.  The grounds crew would also apply their homemade compost to erosion scars, especially following major landscaping projects.  The materials were stored at a couple of sites at West Campus before moving up the hill to the Tower Site off of Hwy. 49.

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Assistant Director for Landscaping and Grounds Susan Daniels (center) conducting a tour of the campus composting facility at the Tower Site.

Susan is now investigating ‘active composting’ using vegetable scraps from the Sodexo dining hall.  She informed the discussion group of the difference in health code requirements between ‘pre-consumer’ and ‘post-consumer’ food scraps.  Once the food has had the opportunity to touch a human mouth, different, more stringent, requirements are in place, in order to get the temperature of the compost high enough to kill human pathogens.  The new composter, when installed, will be capable of achieving these requirements, but it will take some time to get it programmed correctly by adding the right amount of landscaping material to the composting mix.  Susan mentioned that the UGA Extension Service is hosting an industrial composting training session in Athens on March 19th and 20th.

The conversation turned from the production of compost to what to do with it.  Susan envisions a community involvement project, working with ENGAGE and other outreach entities.  Local school groups, citizens, and other state agencies could benefit from such a program.  Susan would like to connect composting to education, and let people walk away with a healthy addition to their own gardens.

“The way to get rid of erosion is to grow something, and the way to grow something is to improve the soil,” said Daniels.

An additional benefit of a school composting program will be the addition of nutrient-rich soil to the Campus Garden.  Susan would like to see the garden site support science-based investigations on how to improve soil, compost yard waste, and produce good food.  Dr. Sandra Godwin commented on the prospects of incorporating both the composting project and the campus garden into classes on ‘Food System Economics,’ ‘Agroecology,’ and ‘Food Ethics,’ all of which are currently offered at Georgia College.

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