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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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4/21/2011 10:56:00 PM
Prescott College instructor shows importance of composting fruit, vegetables
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
Prescott College Student Mary Kate Sperduto shows prospective student Oren Thomas how to sift through compost Thursday morning during Prescott College’s Earth Day celebration.
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
Prescott College Student Mary Kate Sperduto shows prospective student Oren Thomas how to sift through compost Thursday morning during Prescott College’s Earth Day celebration.

Doug Cook
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - Rebekah Doyle, an instructor with the Environmental Studies program at Prescott College, practices what she preaches when it comes to recycling food pieces and plant material through composting.

At the college's third annual Earth Day Festival on Thursday, Doyle shared with local elementary- and middle-school-aged students, among others, the importance of using select scraps for compost piles that can help extend the lives of Arizona's already overburdened landfills.

Doyle said food waste takes a long time to decompose in landfills because they are so compressed and do not allow enough time for the scraps to break down naturally. Therefore, the nutrients from the food are trapped in the landfill and serve no useful purpose.

"Our landfills (here and around other parts of the state) are filling up quickly and reaching capacity," said Doyle, adding that landfills also give off methane gas, which is harmful to the earth's atmosphere. "Food scraps make up a significant portion of trash. There is no citywide system (here) to deal with this problem."

Doyle maintains a campus compost station with three separate bins. The process begins by mixing food scraps, such as banana peels and veggies, with grasses, leaves, scrubs and other vegetation.

Once the active mixture pile has had several months to decompose and it has been continually turned with a rake, it is transferred into a second bin to assist in finishing its aging. The material then sits in a finished bin for a while before it is removed for use in a garden.

The finished compost product at Prescott College is subsequently mixed with nutrient-rich soils and implemented in growing fruits and vegetables on the campus' organic garden plats. Produce from the campus garden is consumed at a student salad bar in the college's dining hall. Uneaten food scraps are later put in the compost pile.

On Thursday, Doyle had a few students from her basic concepts of ecology class either operate an educational booth about the composting process or demonstrate how it's done at the campus compost station itself. The station churns out a cubic yard or so of compost every two months on average, Doyle aid.

Prescott College student Courtney Jaroch, who majors in environmental studies, worked the booth for Doyle and said she came out Thursday to educate other adults and children about "what's going on in nature."

Mary Kate Sperduto, a freshman at Prescott College, assisted Doyle in demonstrating for students how the campus compost pile operates.

"Our main objective is to show what compost is and that it's an option other than throwing food away in the trash," she said. "We hope children will pass this along to their parents so they will be more aware of this."

Doyle said she would like to see composting catch on more in the Prescott area, whether stations are set up in homeowners' backyards or at larger venues, such as schools.

In Prescott, the city's rocky soils often are not high in organic material, Doyle said. But adding compost to a garden here every year can make its soils healthier because they will hold in moisture and nutrients that create optimum conditions for organisms to thrive.

"You can make your own potting mix (for a small garden by using compost materials)," Doyle said. "It has a lot of uses and it's easy to make. If you compost in your yard, you're cutting down on waste."

For more information about the benefits of composting, call Doyle at 928-350-2211 or email her at

Related Stories:
• Editorial: Never lose focus of Earth's priorities
• Earth Day: Events this week offer myriad ways to help planet

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, April 22, 2011
Article comment by: Sweet Leaf

This isn't "trash", it's great stuff. I started composting kitchen waste a couple years ago in my backyard. I put all the summer weeds, leaves, and twigs in the same pile. It couldn't be easier, and it's fun to watch it all turn into dirt.

Posted: Friday, April 22, 2011
Article comment by: Steve Becker

Composting also lessens the load on our sewage treatment system by not having food scraps dumped down the garbage disposal and ultimately into the treatment plant.
Also, some Cities (ie Boulder) actually have separate recycle containers for plant materials that presumably get composted and recycled. Do we really need larger sewage treatment plants???

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