$50,000 sustainable campus competition won by IUPUI, Butler University

by Brianna Crandall — November 11, 2016 — Kimberly-Clark Professional and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) announced at the 2016 AASHE Conference and Expo that a collaboration between Indiana University — Purdue University Indianapolis and Butler University topped entries from 225 other colleges and universities to win the $50,000 Sustainable Campus Competition LIVE! by presenting a proposal to expand food-waste composting at both universities.

The collaboration coordinators presented “University Collaboration to Scale Food Waste Collection on Campus and in the Community” before a panel of judges at the event. Their plan will begin with both universities sharing the cost of having a trash hauler cart away the food waste from dining halls at both campuses. The hope is to eventually bring other Indianapolis organizations on board to share — and ultimately lower — the cost of hauling.

Butler started a pilot composting project in 2014. Under that program, which is ongoing, 800 pounds of pre-consumer food waste — like the apple cores and the tops of peppers — are taken to a composting facility each week rather than be incinerated. IUPUI has recently started composting pre-consumer food waste in its main dining hall, with the hopes of quickly expanding to post-consumer food waste. Large-scale composting helps both universities meet their sustainability goals of waste reduction and reducing emissions associated with climate change.

Each university hauling food waste on its own was cost-prohibitive, so the coordinators devised the proposal to collaborate. Through the recruiting of community partners, commercial composting will become cost-competitive in Indianapolis, say the partners.

For the Sustainable Campus Competition LIVE! event, 226 entrants submitted their best idea in 500 words or less about a campus initiative related to energy, waste, food, water or climate change. From there, 20 semifinalists were invited to submit a two-minute video and a one-page financial overview of their project. Three finalists were chosen to present their projects in front of the panel of judges and a live audience at the AASHE Conference and Expo.

The other two finalists were:

  • Oberlin College’s Visualizing Whole-Campus GHGs: Effecting Behavior Change with Real-time Feedback project
  • University of Washington’s Digital Bins — An Animated Waste Installation project

See the Sustainable Campus Competition LIVE! page on the AASHE Web site for videos of the semifinalist projects.