Student groups take sustainability head-on at Western

A group of students that are involved with sustainability on campus.

Student groups take sustainability head-on at Western

Taylor Cull
Photo by Oct 23, 2018

Certain students at Western Colorado University take the initiative to commit to making the campus more sustainable.

One of the biggest commitments the Sustainability Program has is helping the campus commit to zero waste by producing less waste and recycling more here on campus. There are three organizations on campus that focus on sustainability: Sustainability Coalition, Organics Guild and LEAD Sustainability. 

In the LEAD Sustainability program, there are work-study positions available for students. They act as sustainability advocates on campus. 

The Organics Guild is mainly in the Chipeta Garden. Here they focus on composting, gardening and putting on events, such as their annual farm-to-table event. 

The Sustainability Coalition is a club on campus. Their biggest event is Earth Week. They want to help students and the campus to be more sustainable in their everyday lives.  

“What [Sustainability Coordinators] do is we tackle a lot of waste reduction, so that is what the Rocket Composter is,” CJ Gooderham, a sustainability coordinator, said. “And then we’ve also done things like the bike library, to offer carbon free transportation on campus.” 

The biggest project from the Sustainability Program this year is the addition of The Rocket, a composter that is expected to be up and running by the end of the 2018-2019 school year. It will be installed on the University Center loading dock. 

Currently, food is composted in the Earth Tub, which is about 7-10 feet in diameter. It is limited to only fruits and vegetables. Although this was an improvement, it was hard to keep the food organized so no meats or bread were mixed in. 

The Rocket will be able to compost just about everything that comes out of the Rare Air Café. Unlike the Earth Tub, which takes months to produce compost, the Rocket takes just two weeks to do so. 

“This should give us the ability to compost pretty much all of our food waste coming out of the dining hall,” said Nathan King, director of sustainability. “Hopefully, maybe with the option to expand operations later, and capture food waste coming out of the dorms, and things of that nature.” 

The Sustainability Program applied for the Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity Grant through the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. Through that, Western was able to upgrade how they compost. 

The Sustainability Coordinators also run FreeCycle, a student-run, free consignment store on campus, and run many recycling initiatives. This last year they applied for a grant for new recycling bins in the University Center.  

“Part of our big goal this year is to just help promote zero waste on campus,” said Diego Sanchez, a sustainability mentor and Master in Environmental Management (MEM) student. “Western has a zero waste commitment, and that is one of our major themes we focus on; reducing waste on campus.” 

If you or anyone you know wants to get more involved with sustainability on campus, reach out to Sanchez or Gooderham for more information. 

Story by Taya Olson.