Vermicomposting and Composting
We strive to make our campus more environmentally friendly by recycling our organic wastes. Post-consumer dining hall wastes and shredded paper from offices are collected regularly and fed to earthworms for vermicomposting and composted the rest of it are composted. These efforts were started on campus through the voluntary efforts of the Ag Club under the leadership of the President, Jesse Potter and their advisor, Professor Arancon, in the Fall of 2009. Since then, interest grew across campus and support came pouring in from other student registered organizations like UHHSA (University of Hawaii at Hilo Student Association). Since the whole operation was student-driven, recycling activities was heavily dependent on student availability, the Chancellor's office assisted the operations by providing paid student assistants for continuous operations under the supervision of Dr. Ryan Perroy. In 2016, composting and vermicomposting was offered as a Special Topics course (AG 294) and the students were the main support of the operation collecting data using strategically placed sorting stations. The students were driven to pursue the project and formed a student organization, SOS (Students of Sustainability) led by Alexis Stubbs. Dr. Arancon continued to supervised the operations as he chairs the sustainability committee of the university and the course on composting and vermicomposting was approved as a regular course, AG 263, in 2019.
Ag 263, composting and vermicomposting is offered to all students. This is a Natural Science Elective, Hawaii Pan-Pacific, Global Community Citizenship and Writing Intensive courses for Gen. Ed. The course tackles current regulations, basic theories, best management practices of organic waste handling and practical ways of the application of the products of composting and vermicomposting in Hawaii, US and some parts of the world. Those who specialize in animal and plant systems and other enthusiasts, especially those who are in the areas of organic waste recycling and production of alternative soil amendments will benefit from taking this course.
Organic waste collection on campus
Students in Ag 263 collect organic wastes (paper and post-consumer wastes from campus center plaza. Collected wastes are then processed by composting and vermicomposting.
Eisenia fetida also known as red wigglers are commonly used earthworms for processing organic wastes by vermicomposting. Unlike the traditional thermophilic composting, vermicomposting is a mesophilic process producing richer organic amendments. Students raise these earthworms in designated bins by feeding them with appropriate mixture of organic wastes collected from campus or from their own homes.
Composting is a thermophilic processing of organic wastes that turn them into valuable organic amendments. Jake Rodrique, farm technician and an alumnus of CAFRNM turn a compost pile composed of collected paper and food waste from campus dining hall. Composts are then used by students in Ag 230, Sustainable Agriculture as nutrient source in their sustainable gardens on campus. Our goal is to be recycle majority, if not, all our organic wastes for a zero waste campus. We also aim to augment composting at the UH Hilo Farm.