Going green beyond its colors: Marshall opens first compost facility in West Virginia

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – Marshall University is taking steps to go green beyond its school colors and make a positive impact on the environment.

Next year, the school’s Sustainability Department will open the first commercial compost facility in West Virginia. By adding the compost facility, the university will be 70 percent waste-free. 

“We will take all organic matter from campus that includes food waste, white office paper, cardboard, and lawn scraps,” said Amy Parsons-White, MU Sustainability Manager.

Parsons-White said it’s is a lot cheaper for the school to recycle its organic waste instead of paying to have it hauled off to a landfill, and it is also a lot cleaner and better for the environment. The sustainability manager said organic decomposition produces methane that is 70 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. 

“Just by recycling our food waste we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by over 20 tons per year,” said Parsons-White.

Once the organic waste is brought to the facility, it will be broken down and turned into fertilizer thanks to the help of a grinder, mixer, digester, and 50,000 worms. 

“Worm castings that we will then use back on campus and at elementary schools. . . we will donate the castings for their school gardens,” said Parsons-White.

One of the major concerns brought up by the community is water runoff, and the possibility that the facility will contaminate nearby waters and streams, but the fact that this facility is indoors should eliminate a lot of those concerns.

“When you think of a composting facility a lot of folks will have that structure in the backyard,” said Mark Buchanan, MU Environmentalist Manager.

Parsons-White added that they wanted to make sure the facility was far enough from the stream and everything was housed indoors with a concrete floor to greatly reduce the possibility of any runoff or contamination happening.

If the program is successful within a year or two, it may branch out to the local community and restaurants, but right now it’s just a campus project.

The compost facility at Marshall University is being funded through grants and local donations, and it will be open in the Spring of 2020.

The facility will be operated in conjunction with the Gro Marshall Recovery Fellowship, which is a program within the department through a partnership with the Karma Yoga Institute.

The program provides job training and certification to those in recovery through various green-collar fields, such as composting and gardening.

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