San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

SDSU composting initiatives aim to reduce the impact of campus waste

Compost interns lead the way for student involvement and enthusiasm around composting
Isabella Biunno
Office of Energy & Sustainability employees Annika Laughlin and Emily Herriott pose in their workplace on April 10, 2024

As greenhouse gas emissions rise and the negative impacts of global warming become increasingly evident as stated by the United Nations, universities are implementing courses of action to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Aspiring to strengthen climate change mitigation and food waste reduction plans, San Diego State University is expanding composting programs on campus.

Meredith Serrano, a third-year sustainability student, highlighted the significance of composting. 

“Composting is so important because it is a big contributor to waste reduction,” Serrano said. “It helps us give food waste a new life instead of sending it to the landfill.”

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Composting is a controlled process in which organic waste, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, is transformed into nutrient-dense soil amendment. 

According to the U.S. Composting Council, there are many positive implications of composting in addition to the reduction of food waste. Improvements in soil health, carbon sequestration and water conservation are all direct outcomes of composting. 

There are different scales of composting that incorporate varying methods of breaking down waste. While people may picture composting as using worms to break down food scraps in a backyard, large-scale composting is growing quickly as an accessible and efficient procedure to mitigate climate change and reduce food waste.

SDSU students Annika Laughlin and Emily Herriott work for the Office of Energy and Sustainability, advancing composting systems across campus as interns. Daily, Laughlin and Herriott educate faculty and staff around campus about composting.

According to Herriott, laws such as SB 1383 — which requires the reduction of organic waste going to landfills — are becoming more enforced in San Diego. 

“SDSU is technically out of compliance with SB 1383, and they’re not enforcing it right now but eventually they will be,” Herriott said. “It will be required by law that all of this organic waste is being collected and diverted from the landfills.”

Herriott and Laughlin are researching how recycling plans were introduced on campus in order to help them make the composting system campus-wide as well. This initiative will be overseen by the facilities department.

In addition to collecting compost and crafting plans to strengthen their program, Laughlin and Herriott work with an outreach intern to educate students and expand involvement in the community. 

Through social media outreach and collaborations with other SDSU organizations, such as Green Love and Save Soil, interest in soil health and composting is spreading across campus.

“We have some fun with it. We work with our outreach intern a lot to make fun videos and reels. We’ve made a couple of Instagram graphics and resources,” Herriott said.

Evidence of excitement toward composting is becoming apparent across campus and has reached Kamille Kada, a second-year psychology student. 

Kada began thinking about composting when she noticed that her hometown, Ventura, California, had begun picking up compost from homes. Kada’s environmental science class further gave her the motivation to take action to reduce her carbon footprint. 

After learning about how easy and effective composting is in class, she wondered why students aren’t embracing it more.

“‘Why aren’t more people composting? Why am I not composting?’” Kada asked herself.

According to Kada, her inspiration led her to pitch the idea of starting a composting system at M@College Apartments, a building affiliated with SDSU. The apartments supported her request and new composting bins in the common area now allow for her and other residents of the apartment to reduce their own waste output.

A compost bin is shown at M@College Apartments on March 24, 2024 (Isabella Biunno)

With further planning of a campus-wide composting program from the interns and enthusiasm from the student community, SDSU students have shown dedication to this cause.

Between the two compost interns, there is a lot of work to do to make this composting system effective and campus-wide.

Savannah Schuermann, an anthropology lecturer who teaches a course in sustainability, is unsure about the integrity and effectiveness of campus composting. She has some critiques of the administration’s level of support.

According to Schuermann, since SDSU is not in compliance with SB 1383, it is hard to know whether food scraps are actually being sent to compost facilities or landfills.

Schuermann said that the university needs to fully support composting efforts by providing funding and resources to facilitate its expansion and success.

“The school should raise funding and resources,” Schuermann said. “Give them funding to implement and staff people and bodies on the ground and pay them more fairly.”

For students interested in getting involved with composting at SDSU, the Office of Energy and Sustainability provides information on composting and a compost program sign-up link on their website.

About the Contributor
Isabella Biunno
Isabella Biunno, '24-25 Managing Editor, '23-24 Photo Editor
Isabella Biunno (she/her/hers) is a photographer for The Daily Aztec. She is originally from Las Vegas, Nevada where she was a part of yearbook and publications for nearly six years. She is a first-year Psychology major with an emphasis in neuroscience, and she plans to go to graduate school for Occupational Therapy. She loves photography, editing, and creating, and she can’t wait to continue shooting content for the DA. One thing she is passionate about outside of photojournalism is being involved in the disability/Autism community. She is a part of SDSU’s Adapted Athletics club, and she worked as an Instructor at a company back home called Inclusion Fusion where she was able to work with people with disabilities. Although her career-related passions fall in the healthcare field, she enjoys taking pictures and covering photo events just as much. She looks forward to expanding her experience as a photographer as well as capturing some astounding shots this year.