Three rows of partially processed compost, known as windrows, set in the sun at the Ohio University's Compost Facility located along Dairy Lane near The Ridges.
Photographer: Gretchen Gregory
Ohio University Grounds Equipment Operator Dana Smith picks up a clump of compost from a pile at the facility. "When it's finished, it looks exactly like dirt," he said.
Photographer: Gretchen Gregory
Local resident Andy Stone unloads compost purchased from Ohio University to a garden in (Nelsonville). Pictured are his son, AJ (left), and Tatum and Moe L'Heureux, son and daughter of Bill and Jennifer L'Heureux. AJ also is the son of Tanyah Stone.
Photo courtesy of: Jennifer L'Heureux
Jun 11, 2014
By Gretchen Gregory
Home gardeners and landscaping businesses interested in creating a healthy yard full of green, leafy plants, vegetables and colorful flowers have been fertilizing their gardens with compost purchased from the Ohio University Compost Facility located along Dairy Lane.
This year marks the first time the facility has sold compost to the Athens community, and the effort has been widely successful, according to Ohio University Director of Facilities Management Steve Mack.
“Both machines are running well and we are repurposing this food waste into a nutrient supplement for the soil,” he said.
The compost available for purchase is created from landscape waste such as limbs, leaves, brush, and grass clippings and can be purchased at $27 per cubic yard (approximately the size of a standard truck bed) or $2 per 5-gallon bucket.
Compost utilized on campus athletic fields is a mix of food waste from the University’s dining halls combined with University landscape waste, Mack explained.
During the school year, the University creates an average of 5,000 pounds of food waste each day, which includes food scraps and compostable utensils. Once collected from the dining halls and central food facility, the waste is taken to the compost facility where it’s combined in a 3:1 ratio of food waste to wood chips and added to the largest in-vessel composting system at any university across the nation.
An expansion to the compost facility in 2012 included the addition of a 4-ton expandable in-vessel system, in addition to a 2 ton in-vessel composter purchased in 2009. The expansion allows the University to compost 100 percent of its dining waste. Additional sustainable features of the compost facility include a 31.1 kilowatt solar array to power the current site, a 1.4 gallon solar thermal water heating system to improve workers’ ability to clean the collection bins with harvested rainwater, windrow turner, and a waste-oil burner to heat the pole barn in the winter.
Three rows of partially processed compost, known as windrows, set in the sun at the compost facility on any given day as they finish production by curing and cooling, strategically placed from oldest to newest. “When it’s finished, it looks exactly like dirt,” said Ohio University Grounds Equipment Operator Dana Smith as he held up a clump of compost from a separate pile. “This is the finished compost.”
In 2013, the total amount of food waste collected from the campus community was 824,391 pounds. Once the wood chip aggregate — made from landscape waste — was added to the mix, the amount of processed food and landscape waste totaled more than 1 million pounds, Smith noted.
Composting is about more than just providing nutrient-rich fertilizer for athletic fields and gardens on campus and within the local community, but also includes supporting an innovative, progressive way of thinking that utilizes best practices when reusing items and eliminating waste sent to landfills.
“Ohio University’s food preparation system is so streamlined that minimal waste actually comes from the kitchens,” said Annie Laurie Cadmus, director of OHIO’s Office of Sustainability. “A majority of the food waste on-campus comes from consumers who don’t finish their plate. We are able to use the statistics about food waste gathered from our compost facility to educate diners about the importance of taking only what they need.”
Keeping food out of the landfills is an essential step to help reduce greenhouse gases, said OHIO Recycling & Refuse Manager Andrew Ladd. “When food gets trapped in a landfill, anaerobic composition takes place and a byproduct is methane gas, which is 23 times stronger than carbon dioxide,” he said. “Getting the food out of the landfills and into a product that can go back into the soil amendment is one of the solutions.”
Local residents can purchase compost at Bobcat Depot in Baker University Center 112. Residents should take their receipt to the compost facility on weekdays from 8 to 10 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, and staff will load the material. If using a GPS, visitors can find the compost facility with the following address: 7876 Blackburn Road, Athens, Ohio.
Additional information about the purchase of this nutrient-rich soil amendment can be found online at www.ohio.edu/sustainability/programs/Compost-Sales.cfm.
Focus on sustainable living
Ohio University is a driving force for support and encouragement within the local food community, which has an extensive locavore population who believe in creating a sustainable, healthy living. Helping to educate others about the latest composting technology is one aspect in which the University is helping the community to promote sustainable living.
Student-led tours of the compost facility and Ecohouse, an off-campus sustainable living and learning environment, are offered throughout the school year as a way to educate others about sustainable efforts, as the University strives to meet its goal of being carbon neutral by 2075.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity for us to be able to provide a hands-on educational experience and simultaneously demonstrate techniques for behavior change,” said Cadmus.