Promoting Sustainability

Lydia Rowen sits in garden

When Lydia Rowen, a sophomore majoring in environmental science, came to Carolina, she found it more difficult to save the food scraps from entering the landfill.

Carolina has a robust on-campus composting program in its dining halls, but for students who live off-campus, the options get expensive.

“Last year, I was living in an off-campus house and could no longer rely on my mom’s convenient backyard composter,” said Rowen. “Luckily, I lived near the Carrboro Farmers’ Market and could drop off my scraps on Saturdays. But for a lot of students, they lack the time, transportation or know-how necessary to do that.”

This led Rowen to co-found CompostMates with a group of fellow Tar Heels, including Caroline Shubel, Olivia Tseng, Ideliya Khismatova and Daniel Sheyko. CompostMates is a Carolina student organization dedicated to expanding access to composting for off-campus Tar Heels through a free, curbside food scrap collection service.

CompostMates originated from the Student Government’s Environmental Affairs Committee, which brainstormed the idea. The team applied for one of the Carolina Center for Public Service’s Robert E. Bryan Fellowships, which awards a stipend to support groups interested in creating social change by addressing a community-identified need.

“With [the fellowship’s] funding, we were able to make the service free,” said Rowen.

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