Lisle, Illinois ~ Benedictine University has received a $46,000 Food Scrap Composting Revitalization and Advancement Program (F-SCRAP) grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to allow for the diversion of food scraps generated in the Lisle campus cafeteria and other buildings.
“The generosity of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity enables Benedictine to take another big step forward in being green,” said Jean-Marie Kauth, Ph.D. associate professor at Benedictine. “Composting all the food scraps both from consumers and in the kitchen will save methane-producing garbage from going to the landfill and produce top-quality compost for growing plants.
“I can only think of a few environmental initiatives that would have more impact on campus and on the world,” she added.
This new composting effort will allow Benedictine to divert in excess of 105,000 pounds (52.5 tons) per year of food waste from landfills and wastewater. Composting will be another way in which Benedictine meets its commitments to the Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact. Jobs for student workers managing the diversion program will provide a unique opportunity for students to learn about sustainability.
The grant is another example of the ripple effect “Years for the Environment,” a three-year sustainability and environmental effort that grew organically from the Benedictine value of stewardship, has created on the University campus. The “Years for the Environment” project increased the presence of sustainability in the curriculum, highlighted the importance of sustainability in the surrounding community, and encouraged the University to reduce its carbon footprint.
A student-led community garden has provided modest contributions to the dining hall, and composting food scraps will allow students to see the other end of a natural food system.
The move toward composting food waste is just the latest in a long line of green efforts by the University.
Benedictine recently began using more environmentally friendly cleaning products, which reduce water consumption and pollution while improving indoor air quality for employees and students. The new products include all-purpose and window cleaners that are biodegradable and derived from renewable resources like corn and soybeans. Microfiber towels are also used in place of cotton towels, allowing staff to capture and retain more contaminants while cutting back on water and energy use.
Benedictine’s Sodexo Dining Services began using a new process to decrease the use of cooking oil and turn any used oil into biodiesel fuel through Filta, a recycling service. In just five months, Benedictine reduced cooking oil used on campus by more than 2,000 pounds, thus reducing greenhouse gases by 8,794 pounds and reducing fertilizers and pesticides by 170 pounds. This would represent the equivalent of planting 438 trees.
The University has also received grant money from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to make upgrades to indoor lighting systems, and continues to monitor and maintain efficient lighting and temperature use throughout campus buildings under a curtailment program that greatly reduces energy consumption.
A new student environmental group, S.E.E.Ds, has been founded on the principles of helping Benedictine become a more environmentally friendly campus. The group’s motto is, “Planting a seed today for a greener tomorrow.”