Growing Community Shrinks Campus Footprint

With support of college and greater NYC community, Therese Kelly ’17 launched a closed-loop organic waste recycling program on campus.

The question on the minds of many graduates of the Class of 2017, as they go on to the workplace, graduate school, or service sites, is “What will I leave behind?” For Thérèse Kelly ’17, the answer is a smaller carbon footprint on campus.

The biology major and Green Club president recently launched a composting program at Manhattan College. The program will save organic waste food scraps, such as fruit and vegetable peels from food preparation on campus from occupying landfills. Instead, these materials will be reconstituted into a nutrient-rich fertilizer that will be used on the campus landscape.

Composting officially began in early April, but the program has been a long-time goal of the Green Club. In 2016, Kelly along with then co-president Derek Smith ’16 approached the College administration about the environmental benefits and educational value of composting, and with encouragement, they along with several members of the Green Club set out to learn more about the process by volunteering at several sites in the Bronx.

Kelly and Smith found support within the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park and the NYC Compost Project, whose members trained them in the basic methodologies, including Jodie Colon, project manager of the NYC Compost Project - New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, who advised her to create a project proposal and educate a student team.

“Jodie taught me that you can have the funding, and you can have the materials but if you don't have the people power, it isn't going to be successful,” Kelly says. To ensure the project’s success, Kelly hosted training sessions for interested members of the Green Club. This newly minted Compost Crew helped develop the proposal and committed to composting shifts.

With a formal proposal, the Compost Crew earned the backing of Andy Ryan, vice president of facilities, who was a champion of the project, and Brian Weinstein, general manager of Gourmet Dining, as well as the long-term assistance of Physical Plant. Sarah Stone ’19 and Phillip Dombrovskiy ’20 will lead the project in Kelly’s stead after she graduates, and ensure the project moves forward during the summer months.

Composting really takes a community,” Kelly says. “The project taught me a lot about communicating, being organized and keeping up enthusiasm. I was lucky to be a part of it and carry on the idea to fruition. It's made my last year at the College really meaningful.”

By Sarah Schwartz