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Proposed Initiative To Promote Sustainable Agriculture, Reduce Waste

The Associated Students Department of Public Worms has proposed a new $1.29 fee initiative titled Composting Program on the Spring ballot for the ongoing A.S. elections in an effort to further develop its composting program.

The Department of Public Worms, also known as the DPW, focuses its efforts primarily on overseeing the composting of campus food waste and making use of the compost on campus to boost sustainable food production. Of the new $1.29 per student per quarter fee, $0.32 will be for a 25 percent return to aid, $0.06 will be for a 7 percent administrative assessment collected on all non-capital expenditures, $0.01 will be for the 1 percent A.S. recharge fee and $0.90 will be directly given to the DPW.

The DPW works in partnership with A.S. Recycling on the UCSB Waste Management Plan and conducts educational workshops on reducing food waste. According to DPW student staff member Jessica Foster, one of the goals of composting is to try to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases in the environment, which Foster said is largely a result of food waste.

“Food waste in landfills is a huge producer of methane gas,” Foster said. “It is one of the most potent greenhouse gases.”

According to Student Coordinator for the DPW Debby Portillo, the fee, should it be passed, will be used to sustain indoor collection locations and outreach initiatives to the campus community. It will also provide for student internship and volunteer opportunities where students can get involved with the composting efforts and help increase productivity for the DPW’s projects.

“We have a lot of compostable products, and many of them don’t actually go to the compost bins — they end up in landfill and it’s counterproductive,” Portillo said. “So we would like to add more compost locations and provide more student employment.”

Portillo also said she hopes to be able to run educational workshops to increase students’ understanding of composting in general. Because of the dangers food waste poses to the environment, Portillo said coaching students on why and how to compost will be highly beneficial.

“We would like to teach more students to compost at home, because you could do that easily,” Portillo said.

According to Portillo, the DPW is currently considering the possibility of developing a student-run, compost-fueled demonstration farm. She also said the food produced from the farm could potentially be given to the A.S. Food Bank for distribution to Food Bank users.

“We have a small agricultural farm right now on campus, but we’d like to make it bigger and have students working it, too,” Portillo said. “Hopefully, crossing fingers, we could actually do a collaboration with A.S. Food Bank and make it available for students.”

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