By Hannah Dunham
The Bobcat Blend is a student run organization that works to reduce food waste on campus at Texas State University in San Marcos.
The organizations website defines composting as “as a mixture of various organic substances (materials), in which the natural decaying of organic matter occurs through the biological process wherein microorganisms convert organic material into a nutrient rich resource.”
Run by professor of horticulture, Dr. Tina Cade, the program has received the Pollution Prevention Award in 2012 and was selected by the United States Composting Council (USCC) for the 2015 Program of the Year Award.
The composting group focuses on collecting food waste from various dining halls on campus including Jones, Commons, Harris, The Den, LBJ Student Center along with Lampasas Coffee shop and the Nutrition lab. Once they have collected all the food waste, they take it to their off-campus composting site.
Once the waste makes its way to the site, members of the organization begin the 3-month long process of creating nutrient rich compost.
How Does Composting Work?
Sydni D’Amico, treasurer of Bobcat Blend, explained the process. A pickup truck and many recycling bins are used to collect trash from the various dining halls that contribute to their program and transfer the food waste to their composting site.
From there, they create a “bowl” of dead leaves and other plant materials to pour the waste into. The waste then gets covered with more leaves and dirt with no nutritional value. After a week or two, a student will return to begin turning the pile.
D’Amico said, “The center of the pile is really hot so when we turn it, it’s releasing a bunch of gasses and methane. It looks like it’s on fire when you’re turning it. But it’s a pretty cool process.”
After the initial turn, the pile will be turned each week. It will take three months before the food waste becomes useable compost.
Why Is Composting Important?
Bobcat Blend has helped to reduce the amount of garbage that Texas State produces by 50% since the organization began in 2009.
“Before Bobcat Blend started, Texas State was dumping over 50% of all their food waste into the mainstream,” said Tiffani Kane, Bobcat blend President. “That reduces extra costs that the university has to pay and also we’re providing free compost.”
The compost that Bobcat Blend creates is redistributed to other parts of campus and throughout the San Marcos community to be used, including the agriculture building, community gardens and to student, staff, and alumni who have helped the program.
Before Bobcat Blend, the university would have to pick up food waste once a week and when the organization was at its peak, they were only required to pick up waste every other week.
“In the past we have put out bins in dining halls so that students themselves can sort out the food and we could directly take that to the site and turn it into compost,” said D’Amico.
The organization bins in dining halls were a way for students to interact with the organization and learn about how to compost in their everyday life.
While the Bobcat Blend still picks up a substantial amount of food waste from the university, they are unable to reach a large portion of campus because the organizational food bins are no longer being put to use.
“The only problem that we’ve had with taking extra food is that we need a place for students and everyone to put it and the university is kind of specific about aesthetics,” said Kane.
How Can You Compost?
Zoe Justice, a member of the Texas State University group ECO, a group of students dedicated to promoting environmentalism, enforces environmentally conscious habits in her everyday life.
“I freeze my compostable food scraps for later, and volunteer at composting facilities and for trash pickup events. I also try to bring food containers and a water bottle with me when I go out, so I don’t use to-go or fast-food containers. I also clean and reuse food containers for regrowing celery scraps, lettuce, and propagating houseplants,” said Justice.
Bobcat Blend Now
The organization gained a lot of traction in its first few years and had many ways to participate in their composting process on campus (mainly the organized food bins in dining halls) but has lost momentum in more recent years.
“Every semester it’s always a question of if we’ll have another semester,” said Kane.
According to Kane, the organization is looking to start bagging and selling their compost at the farmers market and discovery center in order to reach a larger audience than they are currently able to.
Get In Contact with Bobcat Blend
The group is avidly looking for new members and volunteers who are interested in composting.
“A lot of people I’ve spoken to are interested in having a way to compost, but they just don’t know where to start or what resources are available,” said Justice.
To get involved with Bobcat Blend, contact Dr. Tina Cade, who supervises the organization or find out more about the organization through their website.
Bobcat Blend Information
Tina Cade: firstname.lastname@example.org
President’s email: email@example.com
Secretary’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Faculty Contact: email@example.com