From Campus to Community: My Journey in Compost

by Tiffany Kennedy

If you had asked me in 2016 what compost was, I would have told you I had no idea. I had just moved to West Chester and was studying nutrition & dietetics at the University.

One course required a volunteer activity, and I ended up at the campus garden. The garden intern gave a tour of what was growing, and tasked me and another volunteer with turning the compost. “What’s that?” I asked, little did I know that this was THE moment. Their brief explanation of this natural decomposition process sparked a curiosity that still drives me.

Not yet fully aware of the complexity of composting, I grasped the basic premise: recycling for plants. The intern told me to bring my own food scraps over to the garden pile, and I was thrilled to start incorporating composting into my daily life.

Eager to learn about growing produce and its role in the food cycle, I continued volunteering weekly. My interest in nutrition shifted away from telling people what to eat and towards ensuring that people had access to nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. My understanding of gardening and the compost process had deepened, and it became clear to me that nutrition started with the soil. In order to grow nutrient–rich produce, we need to have healthy soils.

As an undergrad, I got involved with the University’s Office of Sustainability and its Sustainability Advisory Committee, which connected me with a supportive community of action-oriented students, faculty, and administrators. With their assistance, two compost initiatives were brought to life. We worked together with the campus food lab to gather raw fruit and vegetable scraps and bring them to the South Campus Garden compost pile. Additionally, with the help of many volunteers, we gathered up peels and mashed bananas and integrated composting to the tradition of Banana Day.

Since graduating, I have been invited back to campus each semester to speak with a class about compost and its benefits.

Composting can have a big impact. According to the Institute for Local Self Reliance, more than 50% of municipal garbage can be sorted for compost! In the United States there are more closed landfills than open ones, composting is a solution to increasing the longevity of the landfills we still have available. But it is more than just recycling organic materials. When applied back to the soil, it increases the soil structure, nutrient
profile, and water absorption. Healthier soils are able to capture carbon dioxide through a process called carbon sequestration, which actually works to reverse the impacts of greenhouse gas pollution.

After graduating, I was introduced to Mother Compost founder Gwenn Nolan. She was looking for help as she was then working a full-time job and raising three children, all while starting this new business. I was excited to get involved with the company and its mission to provide a simple solution for residents to compost.

Since then, Mother Compost has grown to a team of nine and serves over 1,200 residents along the Main Line. In 2021 we expanded to include commercial services, composting with local schools and businesses. And now in 2023 we are thrilled to have our first geographical expansion and begin providing a composting solution for the residents of the West Chester Borough!

You can find out more at the the Mother Compost website and sign up here for service. All new subscribers get an automatic free 30-day trial.

1 thought on “From Campus to Community: My Journey in Compost

  1. Pingback: How the Green Team Celebrated Earth Day | West Chester Green Team

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