The Samuel T. Dana Building, home to the School for Environment and Sustainability, is one of the first academic buildings on campus to have compost bins for daily use. Last month, we interviewed two people that are instrumental to the success of the Dana Building composting program: Custodial Staff Damon Woodard and Shannon Taylor.
Both Damon and Shannon have worked for U-M for five years. They started working in the Dana Building right around the time the first compost bin was placed in the Dana Building in Fall 2014. “When composting first started, it took some time for everyone to get used to. Now that it is accessible, people are composting a lot!” Damon says. The building started with one bin and has since expanded to four daily use bins. They say the first-floor kitchen bin fills up every day. Shannon even noticed that when they returned to work after Thanksgiving break, the compost bin was full even though the building was closed during vacation. “At first, managing all the compost was overwhelming, but now we have a system down, and it is a normal part of our routine.”
The name change from The School of Natural Resources & Environment to The School for Environment & Sustainability has brought a lot of attention to the Dana Building. As a result, Damon and Shannon have noticed a lot more foot traffic than in years past and more waste because of it. Earlier this year, members of the student-led Dana Building Compost Crew conducted a waste audit to find out how much waste is produced and if people are putting their waste in the correct bins. Damon and Shannon helped to organize the bags for the audit. “The contamination was crazy,” said Damon, “People aren’t looking at the bin signs like they should.” The most common contaminants included fruit rinds and paper towels that should be composted, but were found in the landfill bins. They hope the results of the audit will help students, faculty, and staff be more aware of where they dispose their waste.
Damon and Shannon want to encourage more buildings at the University to add composting. They say it takes time to get into the habit, but it gets easier. “Any building can do it as long as they start small and add a few bins at a time.”
The University of Michigan can use these insights from Damon and Shannon and like-minded waste experts to help achieve the University goal to reduce its waste 40% below 2006 levels by 2025. To learn more about composting across campus and zero waste events, visit: https://ocs.umich.edu/programs/composting.