Category Archives: Composting

Orientation/Move-In 2012 – Welcome to Tufts!

Welcome returning students and class of 2016! As we enter the 2012-2013 academic year, we at TuftsRecycles! would like to keep you up to date on our work towards greater sustainability on campus. Here’s what we’ll be doing (and what you can do) during your first few weeks at Tufts.

1. Compost yourself crazy. For all incoming freshmen, orientation guarantees one thing: boatloads of delicious food! This year, TuftsRecycles! and the Tufts Eco-Reps are collaborating to implement composting at matriculation lunch,  evening dinners, and the Orientation Food Fair, all boasting the best in edibles courtesy of our friends at Tufts Dining. Help us keep these events sustainable by composting your food, napkins, and paper plates at designated compost barrels. Watch out for contaminants like plastic wrap, chip bags, and ice-cream wrappers — these go in the trash — and recyclable bottles, cans, and silverware which can be dropped into recycling bins all around campus. Help us keep these events zero-waste!

2. Recycle your boxes at Move-In. Please flatten all large cardboard boxes and leave them in a common area — custodial staff will pick them up. Smaller cardboard boxes, paper packing material, and paper bags can be deposited in the paper recycling bins in your residence hall.  Use our helpful guide, click here!

3. Earn money for recycling. Heard of the bottle bill? It’s a Massachusetts law which returns 5¢ for carbonated beverage containers (soda, beer, sparkling water, etc). Recycle your bottles and cans at the GreenBean Machine in the Campus Center — it’s basically free money! Come to the Official GreenBean Launch on Sunday, September 2, 2012 from 4-6 for more information, recycling swag, and how-tos from the people behind TuftsRecycles!.

4. Freecycle it up. Need stuff for your dorm room? Come to the Freecycle giveaway on Saturday, September 1, 2012 from 12-2 on Tisch Library Roof. We will be giving away dorm essentials like shower caddies, storage units, desk organizers, cookware, and fun knickknacks. Be sure to come early — supplies are limited and last until they are exhausted!

5. RAs – Represent your dorm! We have loads of materials for you to share with your resident recyclemaniacs. Check our bulletin boards page for posters and banners regarding recycling and sustainability on campus.

Posted in All, Composting at Matriculation, Dormitories & On-Campus, Featured, Recycling at Tufts | Leave a comment

TuftsRecycles! Composts the President’s Picnic 2012

After the craziness of Commencement, the President’s Picnic is a great opportunity for the remaining students, faculty, and staff to relax with some down-home barbeque food and some lemonade on the Lawn. More important for us: after our sustainability success at Commencement by processing over 5000 meals, we were able to relax while we sorted through just a few hundred meals today.

Our waste management yielded 28 bags of compostable material, 6 bags of recyclable paper, and just 1 bag of trash! Many thanks to the dedicated TuftsRecycles! interns, the Facilities department crew, Tufts Dining, the Tufts Institute for the Environment, the Eco-Reps, and the Eco-Ambassadors for making this happen! Click below for pictures. All images courtesy of the Tufts Office of Sustainability.

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Composting at Tufts

Do you love the magic of turning your food waste into nutrient-rich compost? Then, you probably want to learn more about what is going on in the world of compost on the Tufts Medford-Somerville campus. We currently have three locations where anyone can drop off their organic waste to be composted. The uphill bin is behind Miller hall next to the TIE and OOS office, the downhill bin is by the rear Tisch loading dock, and the brand new bin is located behind the Crafts House.
Tufts Recycles! recently purchased a ComposTumbler®- an incredibly easy way to turn organic matter into compost. The ComposTumbler is located behind the Crafts House, at 14 Professors Row. It consists of two compartments: one will be open for use, and the other will be  closed and in the “hot” phase of the composting cycle (which lasts about two weeks). There are labels on the doors to let people know which side to add to and which side should be left alone. What should you put in the Tumbler? Compost needs a combination of carbon and nitrogen sources:  nitrogen from fresh green things, like food scraps, and carbon from brown things. Some good carbon sources include dead leaves, brown paper bags and unbleached paper towels. There should be a few paper towels near the bin.  Every time you add some food scraps, throw in a brown paper towel or bag to give the right carbon/nitrogen ratio. It will make for a much higher quality finished product.
If possible, chop or rip your composting material before adding it to the tumbler. Decomposition will occur much faster if material is chopped up- it creates more surface area for microbial action. It is also important to rotate the drum! Every time you add compost, give the tumbler a few turns. When you are done adding/turning the bin, make sure to position it with the doors facing down to allow excess water to exit the drainage units.
For all three on-campus compost drop-off locations, the type of waste that can be composted is the same:
  • fruit and veggie scraps
  • eggshells
  • coffee grounds and teabags
  • paper bags
  • Unfortunately we cannot compost:
  • meat
  • fish
  • eggs (but the shells are okay)
  • dairy
  • anything oily
  • bones
  • bioplastics
  • In addition, for those living on campus, many dorms have composting, courtesy of the Eco-Reps. If your dorm has an Eco-Rep, ask them about composting (and just talk to them because they are cool people). Hillel has also begun to compost! We applaud their commitment to reducing waste and Tufts overall environmental impact.
    Happy Composting!

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    Composting at Matriculation 2011

    The class of 2015 was admitted to Tufts in its strongest undergraduate admissions cycle yet, and on their first day on the hill, they learned how to compost.
    This year’s matriculation meals were almost completely compost-friendly; plates and napkins were compostable, and the menu was made up of primarily vegan selections, which made the process easier for all involved (avoiding meat and cheese is the way to go). Plastic water bottles were given out at the event, but parents and students were very mindful about recycling them!

    Potential contaminants were kept on a table away from the buffet.

    The utensils used at both meals were made of bio-plastics; unfortunately, these were thrown in the trash because the company that processes our compost does not accept bio-plastics.  Other contaminants such as salad dressing bottles were kept in a separate container away from the buffet, so waste from that was minimal. Some campus groups tried to hand out candy during the matriculation lunch, but we asked them to not do this on the lawn because those candy wrappers could have contaminated the compost!

    Tufts Recycles! workers were scattered across the president’s lawn at both the matriculation luncheon and the opening night dinner to lend a hand to freshmen and their parents who were composting their food waste. This year, matriculation ceremonies were nearly zero waste (while the ice cream truck at dinner served some delicious treats, the plastic wrappers impeded us from achieving our goal this year).
    And now, for the grand totals from the two events!

    Intern Danielle Cotter gives a thumbs up to some of the composted material from the luncheon!

    During the matriculation lunch, 45 bags of compost were sent to Save that Stuff!, weighing a total of 900 pounds. There were also 10 bags of trash at the end of lunch; there was 300 pounds of trash combined. There was also one truck filled with four yards worth of cardboard from the boxes that many of the food came in. During the opening night dinner, we composted a total of 1000 pounds of food. There was about 500 pounds of trash collected from this event. We also composted 25 bags of composted plates and napkins that collectively weighed 500 pounds. As during the lunch, there was also one truck filled with four yards worth of cardboard from this event.

    Tufts Dining workers made sure to break down cardboard boxes used for the event so they could be recycled! Thank you, TUDS!

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    2010 Matriculation Luncheon- Volunteers Needed

    With just a few hours of your time, YOU can help make this year’s matriculation zero waste efforts successful. Please give us a hand! Two years ago was the first time food waste was composted during freshman orientation. Read about one intern’s take on the mixed results here. The more help we have, the more successful the process will be. Tufts Dining Services, The Facilities Department, the Tufts Institute of the Environment and the Office of Sustainability, in coordination with the Orientation Committee have worked together to design these meals to be low in waste generation and to be compost friendly (i.e., no plastic films to contaminate the compost). Click here to learn more about composting at Tufts.

    If you are interested in helping us on Wednesday, September 1st, please go to our sign-up webpage to learn more about volunteer duties and to enroll in a shift. We need many people so please consider getting your friends involved! When signing up, please leave your name and phone number/email in the comment box or email us at the “Contact Me” link below after you have signed up for a slot. Thank you!

    Posted in All, Composting at Matriculation | Leave a comment

    Volunteer for the National Park Service July 23-25

    Recycling volunteers are needed for the 11th annual ZERO WASTE Lowell Folk Festival. The festival runs over three days, this year’s dates are: Friday night, July 23, Saturday July 24 – day and night, and Sunday afternoon, July 25.

    The event’s composting effort is a national model. Click here to read a summary of the project. Since the program’s inception, 252,000 beverage containers have been recycled and 297,000 meals composted.

    All volunteers will receive a Festival “Recycling Team” T-shirt and hat. Volunteers also get the opportunity to hear some great music, hang out with some great like-minded folks, do a little dancing and eat some fabulous ethnic food from the thirty ethnic food booths.

    If you are interested, please contact Pat Scanlon by calling 978-475-1776 or emailing Pat at

    Posted in All, Composting/Volunteering Off-Campus | Leave a comment

    A look at the Tufts composting system

    Breaking it Down: Composting at Tufts University from JD Cutrufo on Vimeo.
    A film by Joseph Cutrufo, presented in partnership with Tufts Recycles!, Tufts University Facilities Department, and The Office of Sustainability. Featuring Jeanne Eisenhaure, George Ellmore, John Fisher, Dawn Quirk, and Dallase Scott. Music by Hot Protestants.
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    Downhill compost bin open this week

    You may recall that in October we announced a new drop-off site for compost at the Tufts Institute of the Environment at the rear of Miller Hall. This bin is open to members of the Tufts community during business hours. The key for the locked bin is in the office foyer. Please remember to return the key and lock the bin.Thanks to the initiative of the Tisch Library Green Committee, there is now a bin at the library loading dock in the rear of the building as well. This bin is accessible anytime as there is a key to the bin in the mailbox above it.

    Please remember to compost non-animal products only.

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    Boxes, Boxes, Everywhere!

    The beginning of a new year- the smell of an empty dorm room, soon to be filled with junk. But not all that junk carted up by the parents stays in the room. What happens to the box from the new printer, the shoe rack, the Costco-sized snacks? Thanks to Tufts Recycles! 39.45 tons (that’s 78,900 lbs) were recycled during upperclassmen move-in and the first week of classes. Just during freshman matriculation week 38.50 tons were recycled. That’s 78 tons in all!Here’s a little sample of where all this is coming from. On Wednesday, September 2nd the freshman moved in to their dorms. Also that day were a lunch and dinner on the President’s lawn at which a total of 6 cubic yards of cardboard, 96 bags of compost, 350 lbs of pure food leftovers and 25 bags of glass, metal and plastic were collected.
    Here’s the breakdown!
    * 71 bags compost

    * 2 cubic yards cardboard
    * 10 bags of bottles and cans
    * only 3.5 bags of trash

    * 15 bags bags of bottles and cans

    * 4 cubic yards cardboard

    * 350 lbs + 25 bags compostables

    * The amount of trash is unknown all together because the stations closed down but we estimate it to be little over the 4 bags that we collected before.

    Everyone had fun, and we are very happy to have done our part in diverting so much waste from the landfills.

    Posted in All, Composting at Matriculation | Leave a comment

    “My fork is made of corn?”

    Surprised statements like this peppered the hubbub of the largest orientation events this year, when Tufts Dining, Facilities, the Office of Sustainability and TuftsRecycles! introduced composting to the massive freshman feasts. New signs about composting decorated disposal stations that featured newly painted green composting barrels. Many students, parents, and faculty were impressed by Tufts’ admirable effort to be green, but this massive waste-reducing feat was by no means easy to pull off.Anyone pushing his way through the masses of new students, their parents, and Tufts staff snagging a free meal could see that people are generally uneducated about composting. The staff and volunteers helping diners compost predicted that people would be confused by the bio-degradable tableware most of all. They were surprisingly wrong. Many people were in fact confused about whether food or plastic bottles or both could be composted, despite the clearly labeled recycling bins meant to catch plastic bottles and brightly colored signs spelling out in pictures that paper, certain tableware, and food, including meat, could all be composted. After Matriculation Lunch, staff spent hours pulling plastic bottles and caps out of the bags of compost. At the Food Fair, many yellow-shirted compost staff and volunteers could be seen half-submerged in the trash and compost bins, sorting out waste that had been incorrectly disposed. They did their best to instruct the people who came to their waste stations, but as soon as a worker turned her back on the barrels to help someone, another would throw a bio-degradable plate heaped with compost-worthy food into the trash.

    At the Freshman Banquet, an unforeseen obstacle disrupted what otherwise would have been a much less complicated composting effort. After all of the new students had filed away from the event chattering about that bizarre Jumbo video that seems to disturb first years at every orientation, volunteers cleared each table and composted as they’d been instructed. Tufts Dining had joined in by making an effort to ensure all of the food and materials it used could be composted, but somehow, butter wrapped in foil made its way onto the tables and generally wasn’t noticed by the compost staff. Foil wrappers cannot be composted, and these tiny intruders made their way into every bag of compost. TuftsRecycles!’s Dawn Quirk, and Tina Woolston, from the Office of Sustainability, spent the evening sorting through every bag of compost, knee-deep in the dumpster searching for these tiny pieces of foil. You might ask, “What’s the big deal over some tiny pieces of foil?” Save That Stuff, the composting company Tufts contracted to take away the orientation events’ compost, wants absolutely no contamination in what it picks up. The company needs to drop off the compost at clients such as Rocky Hill Farm in Saugus, MA, who, in turn sell the dirt made from the compost. Compost-buying customers don’t want to find little pieces of metal in what they’re using to grow their crops and landscape.

    Of course, this was frustrating to the staff and interns who spent several weeks preparing to compost at the orientation events. Trash barrels were repainted green and labeled for compost; pickups were coordinated with Save That Stuff; staff were educated; this intern spent several sunny afternoons holed up in a windowless closet in Lewis making signs; an iScreen advertisement was even circulating throughout orientation week. While photographing the composting at the Food Fair, I remember threatening, out of exasperation, to put photos of anyone who erroneously disposed of their food on TuftsLife. I think they knew I was joking. I think.

    So now the question is: Should Tufts try to compost at these events or others in the future? Everything discussed up to this point seems to say no. Students were frustrated by the complication of sorting their garbage and generally too distracted to try for more than five seconds; staff and volunteers pulled out their hair with hands covered in sauce and butter, and the involvement of outside vendors with their non-bio-degradable tableware complicated things even further. But on the other hand, orientation composted 1.725 tons of material which now won’t end up in a landfill. Also, even though some students were too impatient to spend time figuring out where to dispose their trash, those who paid attention to the signs and volunteers were educated about composting and enthusiastic that they had the opportunity.

    Before making plans for next year, TuftsRecycles! and Facilities will balance the difficulties we experienced this year against the beneficial outcome. At least three-quarters of you reading this Op-Ed probably didn’t know anything about the composting effort because of the zealous way Tufts keeps most upperclassmen away from freshman events, but for those of you who were there (that’s you, first years), consider how your conduct could’ve influenced the outcome or continuation of this effort. If you made an honest effort to compost, good for you! But if you just tossed your plate in the trash while the volunteer wasn’t looking and scurried away with your friends, why did you do that? Were you just afraid of the awkwardness of asking the volunteers how to dispose of your food? Did you think your friends would judge you as stupid or ignorant for asking? Well, if your friends are really that quick to judge, you’ve got some other issues to work out, but is your blooming college social life really more important than the overall well-being of the planet? If the composting effort makes a comeback at future events, TuftsRecycles! will be trying hard to fix the problems we experienced this year and make composting friendlier to you and your fellow students. So in return, make an effort yourself to follow the guidelines and help out the environment.

    -Kelsey Schur, TuftsRecycles! Intern

    Posted in All, Composting at Matriculation | Leave a comment