Compost Cats: Turning Garbage into Gardens & Sustainable Revenue at The University of Arizona
A half-eaten banana is discarded in the Student Union. A few months later a flower blooms in a nearby field, nourished by compost. Monday through Friday, a team of undergraduate students collects food waste—like coffee grounds, fruit rinds, and leftover bread—from the Student Union Memorial Center. This waste is mixed with horse manure and shaped into windrows. Over time it becomes usable, fertile compost fit for any garden. Students also collect compost from 16 local businesses, including Whole Foods, Chipotle, Beyond Bread, and Subway, as well as grass clippings from campus landscaping projects.
High-quality compost is gardening gold: Compost sales in the U.S. are worth some $250 million a year. With support from the UA Green Fund, Compost Cats plans to purchase a large-scale soil sifter in order to bag and sell Wildcat brand compost. Compost Cats also continues to fund six student employees, who gather 15,000 pounds of greenery and 7,000 pounds of food waste each week. As the only entirely student-run university composting organization in the nation, Compost Cats is in a position to bring not only recognition but also revenue to the UA, while also reducing the university’s dependence on chemical fertilizer for campus landscaping.
For now, Wildcat Compost is used locally at the UA Community Garden, located north of the Highland Avenue Parking Garage. Soon, Compost Cats hopes to start donating its valuable gardening product to local non-profits, such as Native Seeds/SEARCH.
To find out more about this project, contact: Chester Phillips, Graduate Assistant, Students for Sustainability, firstname.lastname@example.org.