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Composting at Dudley

By #13804 Matt Storey

We have been composting for the last several years at Dudley and Kiniya. For many summers Camp Kiniya has had an amazing resource at the Intervale, who partners with camp to turn food waste into rich soil. Since Dudley does not have such a resource available, we continue to enhance our own composting system in order to reduce the amount of waste that goes into the landfill.

This summer we partnered with Composting for Good, an Adirondack nonprofit with roots in the summer camping world. After visits to others who have found success with large-scale, on-site composting, we decided to create a neighborhood-scale vertical drum composting system on campus. This system allows us to collect all food scraps from the kitchen and dining hall and mix them with carbon (wood chips, sawdust, or wood shavings that are readily available) to create compost that we will use in our vegetable gardens and fields. We used a section of the North lot where we have our garbage and recycling vessels to house 6 large drums (4 feet tall by 4 feet around). There we used a compost auger to mix the contents and keep it aerated every 1-2 days. Food scraps were added daily and as we filled one drum we would move on to the next, keeping the drums rotating.

When the correct carbon-to-nitrogen ratio is maintained, the compost generates its own heat, reaching temperatures between 130-150 degrees, which creates decomposition and reduction of the overall pile. From there, we move the piles into the composting garage for secondary decomposition. After that, we move the pile outside to sit for a period of time to reach ambient temperature and to cultivate beneficial soil microbes.

To be perfectly honest, this was a ton of work— sometimes incredibly unpleasant— as dealing with food waste can be challenging. That said, our goal of reducing food waste that would otherwise find the landfill was accomplished. We diverted over 22,000 pounds of food waste! We learned a lot in the process and will continue to perfect the system for next season to include more drums and a concrete pad for them to sit on. We’ll also include an educational aspect to the program, so interested campers will play an active role going forward.

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