By Olivia Clarke
If I stick my head out of my apartment window, I can see that the ground is littered with discarded food: two whole onions, yellow peppers, decomposing noodles. Someone above me has been tossing this stuff out of the window all year. Each time we notice new scraps, my roommate and I look vaguely upward and shake our fists: “How irresponsible!”
Next to that kitchen window sits my new compost pail. Like many students who live on campus, I returned from a final exam last term to find it sitting on my counter, shiny and expectant. It has a convenient handle, and an eye-catching label with instructions that read, “In: coffee grounds, soiled napkins, veggie scraps. Out: liquids, Styrofoam, all plastics.” The pail is straightforward and easy to use. And the thing is, I know that Food Tosser above me has one too. Yet he or she continues to chuck food into the dirt.
But maybe that’s what makes the compost pail so special. The folks at the Campus Sustainability Office know what they’re up against when they try to encourage change: old habits, laziness, lack of understanding. They know plenty of students think composting is gross, and would much sooner throw their scraps in the garbage – or out the window – and forget about them. Nonetheless, here are these compost pails. Stationed in each housing unit on West Campus, they remind me of brave little soldiers, perpetuating Portland’s relentless environmental spirit in the face of all obstacles.