Campus Composting, Part 1: Rural, Urban and Beyond
Since 2011, outside the box thinking and innovative institutional partnerships have allowed the UA Compost Cats, a student-run operation that has already composted over 8,000 tons of material and formed mutually beneficial partnerships with the City of Tucson, aTohono O’odham Nation tribal farm, and Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, to accomplish far greater feats of waste diversion, composting, and zero waste education than any single group could have alone.
In 2018, Compost Cats will open its second composting center, in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, where approximately 3,000,000 tons of produce cross the US-Mexico border at Nogales each year. While the produce industry demonstrates remarkable efficiency in getting produce to market in good condition, waste remains a significant concern, with upwards of 8,000 tons of produce ending up in just one Arizona landfill annually. Additional produce gets transported back across the border into Mexico to sell, and some gets dumped in Mexican landfills or illegally in the desert.
These circumstances, along with the need for nutrient-rich soil amendments for crop production, prompted the formation of a partnership between the University of Arizona (UA) Compost Cats, the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Santa Cruz County (SCC) government, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, and Santa Cruz Valley School District (SCVUSD 35). The SCC Composting Center will expand on this partnership-driven model to provide green job and leadership training to Santa Cruz County high school and college students, innovative zero waste education in K-12 schools,and build local capacity to confront complex environmental and social challenges.
Presenters, including the Compost Cats program director, a Compost Cats student staff member, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas,director of sourcing for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, and an assistant superintendent of Santa Cruz County Unified School District 35, will discuss partnership formation, project planning and launch, significant challenges,and the promise of public partnerships as a model for waste diversion and green job training. Significant time will be allotted for audience questions and discussion.