Butler University and IUPUI beat 225 colleges and universities to win the $50,000 Sustainable Campus Competition LIVE! by presenting a proposal to expand food waste composting at both universities.
Butler Sustainability Coordinator McKenzie Beverage and IUPUI Sustainability Director Jessica Davis presented “University Collaboration to Scale Food Waste Collection on Campus and in the Community” on Monday, October 10, in Baltimore before a panel of judges at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference and Expo.
Their plan will begin with both universities sharing the cost of having a trash hauler cart away the food waste from dining halls at both campuses. The hope is to eventually bring other Indianapolis organizations on board to share and ultimately lower the cost of hauling.
“The idea is to remove the barrier to entry, change the market, and make this more affordable for other organizations to participate,” Beverage said.
Butler started a pilot composting project in 2014 after Beverage’s class secured funding from SGA to compost for a year. Under that program, which is ongoing, 800 pounds of pre-consumer food waste like the tops of peppers and apple cores are taken to a composting facility each week rather than incinerated. IUPUI has started composting pre-consumer food waste in their main dining hall, with the hopes of expanding to post-consumer food waste quickly. Large-scale composting helps both universities meet their sustainability goals of waste reduction and reducing emissions associated with climate change.
Each University hauling food waste on their own was cost prohibitive, so Beverage approached IUPUI in the spring, and together she and Davis devised the proposal to collaborate. By recruiting community partners, commercial composting will become cost competitive in Indianapolis.
“Sustainable solutions don’t begin and end on our campuses,” Davis said. “For sustainability to be impactful, it must go beyond the campus.”
Sustainable Campus Competition LIVE! was hosted by Kimberly-Clark Professional. The competition featured three rounds. All entrants submitted their best idea in 500 words or less about a campus initiative related to energy, waste, food, water or climate change.
From there, 10 semi-finalists were invited to submit a two-minute video and one-page financial overview of their project. Three finalists were chosen to present their project in front of a panel of judges and a live audience at the AASHE Conference & Expo.