Sustainable Community Development Initiative

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Sustaining GV plant life with recycled plant waste

What would Grand Valley do to help lower the cost of buying new planting soil every year, reduce the amount of fertilizer used, decrease the amount of watering needed, and make campus plants look more healthy, naturally? Compost, of course! That’s the idea behind Grand Valley’s latest composting project, headed up by Steve Snell, GVSU’s Arborist.


While Facilities Services has implemented composting for paper and organic food waste, this composting project will focus specifically on yard waste. Though the project is still in the initial stages, Snell has high hopes that composting our campus’ waste, whether leaves, branches, old flowers, or old potting soil, has potential to accomplish all of the previous listed benefits and more. “I always wanted to compost our debris,” said Snell, “but from all the reading I did, [it] required more man hours than what GVSU could afford to do.” There are quite a few ways to compost, but most options cost too much in either labor hours or equipment expense.


Facilities Services and the Arboretum Department, who are collaborating on the composting project, have found a way to save both money and labor while testing the project. A local farmer has lent a composting machine for the summer, providing project leaders with an inexpensive way to decide whether the project is a practical venture.


So how does it all work? “The composting machine is essentially a big drum that rotates slowly, mixing the material inside and breaking it down,” said Snell. He went on to say, “The more air you provide for it, the faster the material will break down.  After one or two weeks, we remove the material and either stock pile it for later use, or use it right away.”  Put simply, rather than pushing old debris into the woods (the previous waste removal strategy), campus plants will be sustained through natural recycling. Snell hopes the project will prove to be both financially and environmentally beneficial, allowing Grand Valley a more sustainable means to keep campus plant life flourishing.


The composting drum is located near the radio tower on GVSU’s Allendale campus and will remain there for project testing through the summer. More information on GVSU’s composting initiatives can be found on Facilities Service’s and Campus Dining’s websites.


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