February 20, 2018
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COA Joins EPA Food Recovery Challenge – and connects to local elementary school

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Students work on composting pile at College of the Atlantic. Photo by Julie De Santis.

BAR HARBOR, ME—College of the Atlantic has joined the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge. COA stands with 33 other colleges in New England in the EPA’s effort to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste.

COA has long been treating its food “waste” as opportunity. At the college’s dining hall, leftovers become reduced-price meals or free offerings. At term’s end, excess food is given to the Bar Harbor Food Pantry and a local shelter. Pre-consumer food scraps have been composted on campus in the college’s organic community garden since 1972, when the college began.

More recently, COA senior Lisa Bjerke has worked to enhance COA’s composting system, organizing work-study students to help collect food waste from the college’s dining hall and from collection bins in student residence halls. COA now creates 10 tons of compost from food waste, improving the soils at both the community garden and COA’s organic Beech Hill Farm.

Bjerke, along with five other students, are also offering students at the Conners Emerson School experience with the concepts of composting, “We teach that compost is human-facilitated decomposition of organic matter, that decomposition is nature’s way of recycling carbon and nutrients, and that waste is just a human-created concept,” says Bjerke. “We talk about the role of compost in growing food, and we’ll help them share their knowledge with the rest of the school, and also help them plan the expansion of their compost at the school’s dining hall,” she adds.

Bjerke is completing a senior project on composting at the college and is compiling recommendations for long-term food waste management at COA based on her studies. As part of this work, Bjerke attended the Maine Compost School.

Following graduation, Bjerke will continue her investigation of composting systems on a year-long Watson Fellowship.
The EPA challenge aims to reduce the 1.64 million tons of food wasted each year in the six New England states. After paper, food waste comprises the greatest volume of waste going into the nation’s landfills where decomposing food wastes generate methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
For more information on the Food Recovery Challenge, visit: www.epa.gov/foodrecoverychallenge/.

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, on composting efforts visit http://www.coa.edu/waste-management.htm. For more on the college, visit www.coa.edu.