Students carry soil in tarp by multicolored trailer
3.07.2022
By Roanoke College News

Trailer promotes value of composting, helps students conduct research

If you swing by Roanoke College’s community garden at some point in the next few weeks, you might see — and smell — something new.

A compost trailer from local organizations Clean Valley Council and Harvest Collective is at the garden, which is serving both as a container for compost and a mini-research lab for environmental studies students. Students in Dr. Laura Hartman’s INQ 120 class “What a Waste!” will be taking regular readings of the temperature and other aspects of the compost and charting them.

Hartman, associate professor of environmental studies, said learning about the importance of composting — taking organic waste such as food waste and breaking it down into soil — is important and fascinating.

“I like compost on a metaphorical level, because it's about taking death and turning it into life,” Hartman said. “And sometimes it's smelly, but it's worth it.”

Though the trailer is full and is currently going through the composting process, anyone can bring their compost to the permanent compost bins at the garden, which is located north of campus near the intersection of High Street and Hawthorne Road.

“I like compost on a metaphorical level, because it's about taking death and turning it into life. And sometimes it's smelly, but it's worth it.”

Dr. Laura Hartman, associate professor of environmental studies

Clean Valley Council is a nonprofit that provides education and clean-up events focused on litter prevention and environmental conservation. Harvest Collective is a somewhat new community group that promotes composting and eventually aims to set up Roanoke’s first compost facility.

When the trailer arrived on campus, a group of students and staff had a gathering in the garden where they loaded up the trailer with food waste. Tim Tenon, director of auxiliary services and sustainability, brought over a tub of scraps from Commons. Attendees ate apples and tossed the apple cores into the trailer. Students got to load compost into the trailer and talk about the process.

Hartman pointed out that so much of the waste produced on campus can be composted. Connecting with Harvest Collective and Clean Valley Council on this project could create a valuable connection down the road, Hartman said.

“This may be a step in the direction of figuring out what we can do longer term with our compost,” she said.