Columbia College Chicago Expands Compost Program


College to Divert 13 Tons of Waste in the Coming Year, Nearly Double Last Year’s Effort

CHICAGO (January 9, 2012) – Columbia College Chicago was recently awarded a grant by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to implement a more comprehensive composting program across campus. This $5,000 grant will allow the college to reach more of the campus with the goal to divert 13 tons of food scrap waste from landfills in 2012-2013, almost double the 2011-2012 school year’s achievement of seven tons.

“Expanding compost efforts allows an opportunity to educate the community about this new reduction process that will help lower the school’s carbon footprint,” explained John Wawrzaszek, sustainability manager at Columbia College. “The mission of the college is to educate students who will communicate creatively and shape the public’s perceptions of issues and events, and environmental sustainability is one of today’s most important issues.”

Composting is the process of decomposing organic matter, such as food waste, into a soil fertilizer. The college’s pilot compost program began in 2011 as an extension of the recycling program diversion efforts, focusing on campus cafes and catered events, with the Columbia College Library acting as a partner since the inception of the program. The 2012 expansion will now include faculty, staff and student spaces.

To save fossil fuels and reduce their carbon footprint, the college’s food scrap waste is picked up by a local hauler Resource Center and processed at a facility owned by Land and Lakes. After scraps are broken down, they become a “soil amendment,” or nutrients to be added back to the soil to beautify landscapes and grow food plants. Practicing a “closed loop” approach, Columbia has used this product in campus landscaping efforts.

“The college takes a holistic approach to campus-wide sustainability as is shown through our online Sustainability Roadmap that guides our campus events, purchases and practices,” said Alicia Berg, vice president of Campus Environment. “Columbia College’s sustainable practices include all aspects of campus life.”

In 2010, the college’s first newly constructed building, its Media Production Center, attained LEED Gold certification. Additionally, the remodeled fifth floor of 33 E. Congress is LEED Silver Certified, and all renovation projects are built in accordance with LEED standards. Campus buildings have occupancy sensors in 90 percent of occupied spaces and nearly 50 percent of all campus buildings’ HVAC systems are controlled by Building Automation Systems. The housekeeping staff adheres to green cleaning guidelines and recycling efforts divert over one-third of this waste from landfills.

Additional examples of sustainable practices already in effect at Columbia College Chicago include:

  • The college has reduced its fleet from eight vehicles to six, while adding one hybrid vehicle and one E-85 (85 percent ethanol) van.
  • Two campus green roofs cover more than 20,000 square feet.
  • More than 80 percent of students, faculty and staff take public transportation, walk or ride bikes to get to campus.
  • The college turned an outdoor lot into a bike parking lot and Papermaker’s Garden, the latter an academic endeavor integrated into classes at the college’s Center for Book and Paper Arts.

Columbia College Chicago is an urban institution that offers innovative degree programs in the visual, performing, media and communication arts for nearly 11,000 students in 120 undergraduate and graduate programs. An arts and media college committed to a rigorous liberal arts curriculum, Columbia is dedicated to opportunity and excellence in higher education. For further information, visit


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