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Danielle Jenkins | Greenwise

The one about composting

Published: Friday, February 22, 2013

Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013 09:02


To compost, or not to compost, that is the question. I’ve heard every argument for and against composting. I know its ins and outs, and I’m here to relay what I’ve learned.

Composting, for those who may not know, is when biodegradable materials, plant waste, brown paper towels — and hair, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous — is collected and allowed to decompose naturally. At Tufts, most students compost without even realizing it, because the dining halls compost all leftover food scraps. For those of you who have abandoned the meal plan, all you have to do is collect your food scraps and then dump them in the composting bins, which are behind Miller Hall or Tisch Library. Students in dorms with an Eco-Rep have it even easier. Literally, all these students have to do is ask their Eco-Rep where the composting bin is in their dorm and drop their food scraps in that bin, which the Eco-Rep then totes to the larger collection sites.

So, why compost?

When food waste is taken to landfill, it decomposes anaerobically — as in, without oxygen — which causes more potent greenhouse gases to form. By composting these scraps and remembering to “turn” the compost heap, the food remains in contact with oxygen, which reduces harmful emissions and allows the food to decay naturally.

But isn’t it smelly?

Not if you have some tricks up your sleeve, and believe me — I do. I’ve tried many different strategies to get my compost to smell better because before, it was rank. The best solution by far is coffee grounds. Wait for them to cool and dump them, filter included, into the compost. Give it a day and the smell of decay will no longer fill an entire room when you lift the compost lid.

Speaking of lids, make sure you have one. If your compost is open of course it is going to make your house smell. It is also going to attract all sorts of critters. So do yourself and your hallmates, housemates or apartmentmates a favor and put a lid on your bin.

As the months get warmer, and students put on shorts on that first 40-degree day, the fruit flies will surely start to make their return. One fun fact about fruit flies is that they love banana peels. Eliminate them by placing a banana peel in a sealable plastic bag. Poke a needle-sized hole in the bag and leave it out, away from your compost. Once you’ve caught the pesky flies, seal it with a small piece of tape and toss it. This one food scrap is a worthy sacrifice for all of your hard work as a composter. Not into the banana peel trick? If you have a green thumb, get a carnivorous plant. Over the summer months it will grow exponentially and your fruit fly problem will be minimal, not to mention you will have an awesome plant that does more than just chill in your windowsill.

How do I get started?

Get a bin. Talk to the managers of Dewick or Carmichael — they often get food in large white bins. These serve as great composting buckets and — always a plus — they’re free. Fill your bin. Walk to Tisch or Miller Hall and dump its contents in the bins. Repeat steps two and three as desired until composting enlightenment has been reached. Your trash cans will be less full, and you’ll have some fabulous plant food if you ever want to start a garden.



Danielle Jenkins is a senior majoring in English and environmental studies. She can be reached at

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