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Cyberinfrastructure Building joins other campus units in composting effort

Aug. 15, 2013

Composting initiatives are catching on at IU Bloomington, and not just in the dining halls.

One of the most recent areas to turn food scraps into fertilizer: the Cyberinfrastructure Building and University Information Technology Services at 10th Street and the bypass on the east side of town.


Elizabeth Venstra demonstrates how to use the dual-chamber composter at the Cyberinfrastructure building. Venstra is co-leader of the CIB & UITS Green Team. | Photo By Ric Cradick

The building’s facilities staff and Green Team recently purchased a two-chamber, Mantis ComposT-Twin composter where staff members can place their food scraps.

Composting involves the breaking down of organic waste, such as leftover food, into a product that can be used in agriculture. This compost is rich in nutrients and serves as an excellent fertilizer. Forty percent of campus garbage is compostable food waste, but in a landfill it does not have a chance to break down. Composting reduces trash and its associated costs, as well as the need for chemical fertilizers.

When one chamber of the new composter is filled and left to “cook,” the other chamber can be used to collect more materials. Both chambers are latched and fully sealed so there is no smell or chance of undesired pests in the vicinity, alleviating concerns of aesthetics, particularly for a LEED-certified building.

“We worked with Lea Woodard at Hilltop Gardens and Mia Williams at the Architect’s Office to determine the best placement of the composter and gain permission to use the resulting compost for nourishing the building’s landscaping,” said Noma Maier, a UITS sustainability coordinator.


Nine buckets are distributed among kitchens in the Cyberinfrastucture Building, Communication Services and the Innovation Center. | Photo By Ric Cradick

Nine buckets are distributed among kitchens in the Cyberinfrastucture Building, Communication Services and the Innovation Center.

Facilities staff have shown support for the project, while building staff members have volunteered to empty their compostable materials into the machine. All staff members and volunteers interested in composting took part in a quick demonstration to learn how the composter is used.

The food waste and an equivalent amount of shredded newspapers are emptied into the chamber, the door is closed, and the composter is rotated. This mixing of the green material (food waste) and the brown material (newspapers) is essential to aerating the materials inside, facilitating the composting process and producing high-quality compost, said Angelo Bardales, an MPA/MSES candidate and SPEA student who currently serves as Green Teams coordinator.

The Department of Biology has also been successfully using this composter, and the Green Team at the Office of Overseas Studies is exploring similar options, Bardales said.

To learn more about composting or starting a composting program in your building, contact the Hilltop Garden and Nature Center at hilltop@indiana.edu or the Green Teams coordinator at the IU Office of Sustainability at iugt@indiana.edu.

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