UNT students will save hundreds of cubic yards of waste from going to the landfill each year – and they might not even know it! Every year, the UNT grounds team removes dried and decayed leaves, limbs, and plant matter from landscaped areas to maintain a beautiful campus. An average-sized pickup truck typically holds about 3 cubic yards, so the amount of organic waste accumulated from the campus landscape each year would equal hundreds of truckloads.
All of this organic matter would typically be disposed of in a landfill where it would not properly decompose, but the UNT Grounds staff seized an opportunity to use this plant material as fuel for compost that can be re-applied to the campus ecosystem. Compost is a mixture of organic ingredients that break down into rich soil. Compost derived from decomposed plant waste can be used as fertilizer on the UNT grounds, helping to save money and benefitting the environment. The Grounds team realized they could best use this material if they could build a composting facility. They proposed this idea to the We Mean Green Fund (WMGF) in 2019.
The proposal was approved for funding and to proceed in 2020, but the pandemic conditions paused construction. Earlier this year, the effort was re-authorized to resume and the composting facility will be operational by late summer 2021. The funding support from the WMGF allowed the Grounds team to build the facility, purchase new dump trucks to transport the organic matter, and construct holding bins for each phase of decomposition until the compost is ready for use.
The We Mean Green fund is an initiative made possible by the UNT student body in the form of a $5 Environmental Service Fee that students pay in spring and fall semesters to support new campus sustainability projects every year. Students and employees can propose their idea for a campus sustainability project to the student-led We Mean Green Fund Committee. This sustainability committee has funded various projects that help better our campus and environment.
“We Mean Green Fund projects are community-driven and promote environmental stewardship across multiple disciplines. The We Mean Green Fund creates an opportunity for students, staff, and faculty to leave their ‘green’ legacy at UNT,” said Emily Bilcik, coordinator of the We Mean Green Fund.
We Mean Green Fund projects, such as the UNT Community Garden, not only add lovely additions to our campus but also bring opportunities for both students and employees to collaborate on something meaningful.
The Grounds composting facility will benefit the campus immensely as compost is needed for everything that is planted on campus. Without this natural fertilizer, the plants on campus could not grow properly. Not only is this project ecologically beneficial and efficient, but it is also cost-effective.
“The new composting facility will save our campus time and money by eliminating the need to buy compost or transport waste to a landfill while being more sustainable in the process,” said Grounds Manager Erik Trevino, who helped organize this effort.
Thanks to students, this composting facility, and the other We Mean Green Fund projects, demonstrate UNT’s commitment to sustainability and a more environmentally friendly campus.