The Green Gorillas help students learn to compost at Skyline College as part of a pilot project on waste diversion.
In an effort to reduce waste going to the landfill, students at Skyline College in San Bruno have begun their own composting initiative.
The Green Gorillas, the name of the project, measured the amount of waste they were able to divert from the regular trash cans and the landfill. During peak hours, students brought compost bins to the cafeteria and advised others on how to separate their compostables and trash. Students were trained by Recology.
“We’re hoping to implement this as a permanent program at Skyline College to expand it into the entire district,” said Deanna Badong, president of the Skyline Environmental Club.
The group began its efforts after receiving a $2,500 grant to support the idea. This past fall, the group conducted a study and just piloted the program in the cafeteria. Then this spring, the students spent Monday through Thursday for a three-week period at the cafeteria. Each day, the students were in the cafeteria they measured the amount of waste they have been able to divert from the regular trash cans and the landfill.
“There was already a little bit of student interest regarding composting from an environmental science course,” Badong said. “The Environmental Club wanted to do something simple we could measure success by. I liked that it’s easy to do; it’s not really hard to get people to sort trash. It creates a culture of sustainability on campus. It’s gotten to the point where people expect us to be there.”
The group was able to divert 57.6 percent of the waste collection to the compost, totaling 129 pounds of compost. About 22 percent went to recycling, while the other 20.7 percent went to landfill.
“We were not too surprised,” said Richard Hsu, Skyline’s sustainability coordinator. “We knew there was a large amount of food waste.”
The school’s cafeteria does compost unused food from the kitchen at the end of the day, but there’s no composting in place for food leftovers from consumed meals.
Meanwhile, Skyline English teacher Katharine Harer is happy to see students who took her composition class that focused on climate change work to improve the environment.
“They have a really positive attitude about garbage,” she said. “Normally people think it’s icky and don’t want to think about it. They learned in my class as individuals in the community there are things we can do to make a difference.”
Also proud of her students was Carina Anttila-Suarez, a professor in biology and environment science at the college and also advisor to the Environmental Club.
“They were very professional and enjoyed teaching their peers,” she said. “It was a student-led project that really took off.”
The Green Gorillas plan to make a presentation to the district’s Board of Trustees with its data to try to make composting permanent at Skyline. Before that, they plan to contact school officials with the data. They also want to offer their data to the two other district community colleges, Cañada College in Redwood City and the College of San Mateo.
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