December 05, 2023

A collaboration between Susquehanna University’s Office of Sustainability and dining services provider Aramark is diverting food waste from Evert Dining Room to SU’s Campus Garden.

Every day, Aramark dining staff collect pre-consumer food waste in five-gallon buckets that are delivered to the garden by employees from facilities management. Student employees at the garden turn the compost regularly and then use it to fertilize and cultivate crops.

“In Pennsylvania, nearly 40% of the waste sent to landfills or incinerated consists of organic waste. As it decays, it generates methane, a greenhouse gas that poses a greater threat to both the environment and human health compared to carbon dioxide,” said Drew Hubbell, associate professor of English and chair of Susquehanna’s Sustainability Committee. “Diverting food waste from landfills to composting reduces greenhouse gas emissions, conserves natural resources, and practices circular economy principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

Patrick Cross ’24, a psychology major from Middletown, New Jersey, and Sarah Joy ’26, an ecology major from Palm Bay, Florida, are in charge of managing the buckets of compost.

“Our involvement in this project stems from a commitment to aiding Susquehanna University in its sustainability objectives for the university’s 2026 strategic plan,” they said. “Our contribution involves developing both short- and long-term goals toward waste reduction and enhancing the campus environment through cultivation.”

Susquehanna’s 15,000-square-foot Campus Garden, located within the Center for Environmental Education and Research, grows more than 30 different varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs in 50 raised beds and six in-ground plots — all of which is donated to local community organizations like Haven Ministry in Sunbury and the Regional Engagement Center (REC) in Selinsgrove.

In addition to pre-consumer waste, since October dining services has collected all solid post-consumer food waste — roughly 12-14 five-gallon buckets per day — and donated it to a local farmer.