IIT marked another milestone in the university's efforts to reduce the amount of trash leaving campus with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new campus composter on Friday, September 30. Through a partnership between Cook County and the university, including efforts by student groups, a university-sponsored IPRO, the Wanger Institute for Sustainable Energy Research (WISER), and the Office of Campus Energy and Sustainability, the on-site composting operation will significantly reduce the amount of food waste going from campus to landfills, instead recycling the waste for use on campus as fertilizer and soil amendment.
The composting project started when a group of sustainability-minded students identified food waste as an area in which the university could make significant improvement. Under the sponsorship of the OCES, an IPRO was formed to review the process of food waste generation at Main Campus, identify obstacles and opportunities in addressing the possibility of recycling the waste, and develop a solution that would minimize the amount of material sent to landfill.
Around the time the IPRO was identifying a framework for implementing an on-site, organic waste composter at IIT, WISER responded to an opportunity from Cook County to discuss how the county could improve their performance using ideas that IIT planned to implement at its campuses. The on-site composter project was selected for funding by Cook County under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program, administered by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Cook County's support for improving the environmental health of the community and IITs commitment to innovation made the project a success and a model for future collaboration.
The composter is another in a series of sustainability initiatives that have been implemented on campus since 2005, including efforts to dramatically increase recycling on campus, reduce trash and food waste generated in campus cafeterias, the Perfect Power smart grid project, the IIT Wind Turbine, and more. These efforts have involved the participation of people throughout the IIT community, combining the passion of students and employees to create a more sustainable campus, the expertise and research of faculty in energy efficiency, the diligent work of faculty and staff to secure grants for the initiatives, and a commitment by everyone to lead by example in our efforts to create a more sustainable campus, city, and world.
Pictured: Director of Cook County Department of Environmental Control Deborah Stone and Henry R. Linden Professor of Energy and WISER Director Hamid Arastoopour