Last fall, a group of UNC students created an organization to help expand access to composting in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area.
CompostMates offers free food scrap collection services for students who live off campus in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
Despite CompostMates having completed its first food scrap collection just last month, the group has already been recognized for its work, as it received a 2021 Bryan Fellowship from the Carolina Center for Public Service.
Olivia Tseng, co-founder and director of community outreach for CompostMates, said the goal of the organization is to remove barriers like transportation and a lack of space for students who choose to compost.
“It is a growing movement to be more mindful about where the things that we consume go," Caroline Shubel, co-founder and communications director for CompostMates, said. "Being a part of a space that is actively trying to combat some of the things that are out of our control is really important to me."
She said a happy consequence of CompostMates' services is that they divert scraps that would otherwise go to landfills and produce methane that can harm the environment.
As of March 9, the program has diverted 863.9 pounds of food scraps and other compostable waste from landfills.
Lydia Rowen, co-founder and director of operations, said CompostMates is already influencing the way off-campus students deal with their food waste.
“If you walk around Chapel Hill or Carrboro, you will likely see our buckets on people’s back decks or front decks,” Rowen said. “That really impacts the space because people are able to see their neighbors doing environmental work.”
She also said that because CompostMates is free, students can participate regardless of their financial situation.
Sara Vandersip, co-founder and director of social media, said CompostMates is an easy way for students to support environmental sustainability.
“CompostMates has been a really good stepping stone for people in terms of being aware of your carbon footprint," she said. "One of the most important things is to be able to advocate for helping the climate crisis through something really simple."
Vandersip said the program has used social media to raise awareness about disposal of organic waste and other environmental causes. She said students can follow CompostMates on Instagram at @compostmates_unc.
“CompostMates is really important to get people to compost independently, but also educate people on why composting is so important,” Tseng said.
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