Composting in John Abbott College

John Abbott College has made many efforts to promote sustainability throughout campus from bee hives to organic gardens. One of the lesser known programs that John Abbott College has to offer is composting. Very little is known about the composting options that are available to students on campus due in large part to the lack of advertising. In an attempt to remedy this, I interviewed Jessica Burpee, professor in the Geoscience Department, and also Coordinator for the Environmental Studies Certificate.

So when did the composting initiative start in John Abbott College?

There were a lot of false starts when we tried to get the initiative started in 2008, back when the Sustainability Committee was composed of students, faculty and staff and we didn’t have a sustainability manager yet. It wasn’t until 2013 that we fully implemented composting around campus thanks in large part to a collaboration with the city of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. At first, we wanted to send over the compost to the McDonald campus but were never able to because of concerns raised by the college.

What were the difficulties in staring up the initiative?

A few major difficulties and concerns that were brought up were the smell that the compost bins could possible cause, the lack of faculty staff that would take care of the bins as well as the general upkeep of said bins. We debated on how to take care of the issue in a consistent manner with student volunteers and faculty staff but those solutions came with their own complications such as the student body changing every few years and staff being gone for the summer. It wasn’t until we collaborated with the city that we were able to move forward and continue with the initiative.

How many composting bins are there available around campus?

Six in the cafeteria, two in Tim Hortons, one in the Oval and the AME atrium and 53 in the kitchens of the dorms and residences. Who first stepped up to start the composting program? It was a combination of faculty and students who were on the sustainability committee. A few student projects pushed forward the idea, but again, it wasn’t until Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue lent a hand that we finally managed to fully implement it.

So why did John Abbott College start composting?
Partly in part due to how much space composting takes in landfills and how it tends to rot and produce methane, which is a very potent greenhouse gas.

Are there ways that John Abbott could improve the initiative?

For sure, we could hire more staff to take care of the bins and also increase the amount of available bins on campus.

Are there any future projects planned for the initiative?

Mostly advertising, a lot of the student body is unaware that we offer composting initiatives and what and what not to compost.

And finally, are you satisfied with what the college has done in terms of composting?

Oh, definitely. I’m sure there are many ways to improve on what we’ve done so far, but we’ve made great progress compared to what we had before.


Gabriel Tam Dumais
Staff Writer

Originally Published in Bandersnatch Vol. 47 Issue 3 on October 12, 2017