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Photo provided via Rural Action's website.

Rural Action hopes to educate students about composting

Rural Action is an organization based out of Southeast Ohio dedicated to increasing sustainability and environmental awareness. Rural Action is an affiliate of Ohio University and partners with Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers and the Appalachian Ohio Zero Waste Initiative.

The three organizations will collaborate to host four classes breaking down the importance, effectiveness and benefits of backyard composting. Attendees will also have the opportunity to learn about local compost pick-up opportunities.

Classes taking place on Nov. 21 and Dec. 2 will be virtual from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., but the Nov. 22 and Nov. 30 classes will be held in-person at the Athens Public Library, 30 Home St., from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“Our mission is to build a more just economy by developing the region's assets in environmentally, socially and economically sustainable ways,” Alexandria Polanosky, Rural Action’s media and communications director, said. “The Appalachian region in general has a history of being exploited specifically for a lot of its resources, both human and natural resources. And so what we're really doing at this organization is taking those same assets but building them up and lifting them up and growing them rather than just erasing them and exploiting them from the region.”

When it comes to composting, students like Ella Shroll, a fifth-year studying recreation management, have found it difficult to continue their sustainable habits due to the lack of composting sites available.

“I did participate in composting for a couple years in Athens when I was going to the farmers market pretty much every week,” Shroll said. “I would take my compost to one of the farmers there. There aren't a ton of options for students at the moment.”

Shroll is the president of Bobcats Go Green and the communication team lead for Campus Recycling and said that Campus Recycling is working on making composting more available to students.

Kristen Leibensperger, a freshman studying French and astrophysics, has similar sentiments toward composting availability for students.

“Personally, I do not compost but I know there are places where you can compost yourself,” Leibensperger said. “I feel like at OU it's not the most accessible thing. I know in previous years there have been on-campus composting bins, but I haven't heard anything about that.”

Despite the extra time and effort it takes to compost, students find it hard to deny the environmental aspects of the practice. Compost is essentially food waste and other material broken down, sifted and turned into a substance full of nutrients that helps new crops grow.

“It's taking food waste and turning it into money basically,” Polanosky said. “It just makes such a big difference. I think once you start doing it at home, you realize you're taking out a trash bag less and less, because almost everything you're throwing out, especially in the kitchen, can all be composted.”

The City of Athens approved a trash and recycling contract with Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers in July of 2020 that introduced an optional curbside composting program for Athens residents. Participants have the opportunity to compost without the hassle of finding a place to deposit it. The compost is set out by the trash and recycling, picked up by Athens-Hocking Organics’ crew and taken to the composting facility located in The Plains. 

“I feel like there’s this idea that you need a lot of land, or you need a big garden to compost, but that’s definitely not the case,” Polanosky said. “This program makes it easy.”


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