WSU-Mount Vernon Sustainability Committee, started in 2005, supports resource use efficiency in our facilities and on our research and demonstration farm. The committee works to develop and implement new ideas for sustainability at WSU and we educate faculty, staff, students and community members about the importance of natural resource conservation.
Since 2008, WSU Mount Vernon has adopted an All-In One recycling system with Skagit County. Since adopting this program, garbage pick-up has remained low (2 dumpster pick-ups per month) despite the fact that the center’s programming has tripled in size. Recycling is picked up once a week and mixed recycling containers are located throughout the facility.
Skagit County Recycling
At events, compostable tableware is being collected in designated inside bins. New signs with pictures have been added to collection sites and future announcement will be made at group functions to remind people how to separate compostable tableware from recyclables, garbage, etc. A new supply of compostable tableware will be purchased by the center each year.
Bags from the inside bins are being collected and placed in outdoor storage bins (recently purchased by facilities management). Twice a month these bins are checked and if they are more than 1/2 way full, the material it taken to Skagit Soils. This company takes this material ($5 minimum) and processes it in their large 'green' compost piles. We are unable to add the compostable tableware to the WSU-NWREC farm composting system because we do not have a shredding/sieving component to our composting system at this time.
Ceramic mugs (125) have also been purchased for event and other permanent tableware is being sought for future internal events.
On-farm organic material is being collected into a ‘Dralle’ windrow system. Ron Dralle and the NWREC Farm Committee have developed an on-farm composting system for compostable waste generated by field/greenhouse projects. The windrow pile is maintained by a front loader and maintenance of the pile is the responsibility of facilities operations under the supervision of the farm and sustainability committee. Hay bales are set around the back perimeter of the pile (25 ft, 5 ft-4 bales high). After they break down they are replaced and old hay is integrated into the pile. Materials are added from field trials and grounds maintenance. Wood chips are added to the pile to maintain a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. The compost generated is used on non-research grounds of the NWREC to avoid problems with chemical residues, pathogens, weed seeds, etc. We hope to purchase a chipper/shredder for large and woody plant tissues to compost more effectively.
Employee and visitor food waste is being collected at WSU-Mount Vernon NWREC. All materials, excluding dairy, meat and eggs, can be discarded in covered 5-gallon white buckets located throughout the facility. Three buckets are currently in use and are located in the main lunch room, by the south exit and in the demonstration kitchen. Weekly, or when full, buckets are taken out to our Earth Machine™ bin located behind the tree house. The pile was started with soil, shredded paper, water and red worms (Eisenia foetida). New food waste is added to the top of the bin and spread evenly. As shredded paper is available from the front office it is soaked in a bucket (24 hrs) and then added to the pile to cover undigested food waste. Within the bin the pile is covered with black plastic to minimize flies and odors. New worms can be added after an extended cold period and/or if digestion of food material becomes stagnant. The bottom hatch on the bin can be opened. Worm castings can be removed from this area and worm activity can be monitored.
Light & Gas Usage
For 2008 and 2009 the Sustainability Committee has helped our facility tally energy use for the statewide reporting matrix mandated by the University. Motion sensor lights will be added to the facility and the committee will help implement and energy audit with Terry Ryan in spring 2011.
In 2009, leaf blowers were banned from this facility. All leaf matter management is now done manually (see cover photo). Gator and vehicle usage has been minimized and walking or carpooling in encouraged to the Olsen House and surrounding fields.
The sustainability committee hosted several informational seminars and demonstrations in 2010. These were focused on WSU faculty, staff and students as well as community members. Events are listed below:
- April 21, 2010: Food Systems Planning and Research in NW Washington, Dr. Brandon Born and Kara Martin, University of Washington
- April 10, 2010: Breadmaking Workshop: The Mysteries of Sourdough, Scott Mangold, Bread Farm
- March 12, 2010: Artful Persuasion: Artists Helping Scientists Convey the Realities of Climate Change, Lin McJunkin, sculptor/science educator
- January 13, 2010: Composting Systems and Management, Tamara Thomas, Terre-Source
The sustainability committee also hosted the Lincoln School (Grades 3–6) for a field trip and healthy local farm produce lunch in September 2010. This story was featured in WSU Today.