Eli Colasante started off with a simple idea: composting. We produce tons of food waste, both through food services and on our own. Composting appeared to be the obvious, and easy, solution. Before evening arriving at Sarah Lawrence, he knew he wanted to pursue establishing composting at the school. Upon arrival, he was surprised to find the school without compost or any serious student initiative around the issue, but dove in nonetheless.
Colasante is passionate about composting for a number of reasons. Primarily, composting is a financially sustainable way to address a serious environmental issue. Colasante started off with that seed of an idea, unaware of what exactly it would turn into. Colasante was unaware of the enormous benefits of compost, besides that it can help to reduce landfill waste. But, composting serves a dual function: it productively uses food and other wastes, all the while creating some of the best fertilizer out there. Chemical fertilizers require enormous energy inputs to produce. Compost does not,and is, according to Colasante, often a more effective fertilizer in a sustainable system. We don’t often think of soil as much more than dirt that gets inconveniently stuck under our fingernails, but it is in fact a highly complex substance. DIRT!: The Movie addresses the political implications of our systematic destruction of soils. Colasante described soil as a “living organism.” He went on to say “compost is even more alive and active and it turns of to be part of a really complex system that works.” At its core, what Colasante discovered is that the compost bin does much more than reduce waste, it offers a window into a more sustainable (environmentally and financially) future.
Despite the numerous benefits of composting, Colasante has been stuck in the mud, so to speak, getting the project fully off the ground and integrated into Sarah Lawrence. Worries about attracting rodents with a composting facility have also held back his efforts, but the administration hasn’t been barrier at this point. The lack of other interested, and committed, students is the biggest problem composting at Sarah Lawrence currently faces. As cOlasante said, “…the project is huge in scale and overwhelming…[we need] publicity, a website, someone who can educate, someone who can compost, someone to collect food waste, grants, [it’s] too much to do, too much for one person.” Looking forward, Colasante has three big questions:
1. Where am I going to find the people to do this and stick with it?
2. What’s in it for other people to make this facility happen? what’s the incentive?
3. How to efficiently run a composting operation
But, Colasante still sees enormous potential. A lot can happen with more involvement, but the scope is limited when just one or two people are actively involved. 2000lbs of food waste have already been composted, but that number should rise. To accompany his three questions, Colasante also has three goals:
1. For more students to pursue conference work related to composting and soils, be that biochemically or sociopolitically.
2. To bring guest speakers, films, and voices from outside Sarah Lawrence to campus
3. And, most importantly, to establish a fully functioning compost facility which composts all the food waste on campus and then sells that compost for a profit.
If you’re interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out Colasante’s websites: eliscompost.weebly.com and eliscompost.blogspot.com. If you’re interested in doing conference work about soils, feel free to email him for ideas about where to start!