SUNY Oswego’s Office of Sustainability and its manager, Kate Spector, have earned the 2022 College Recycling Leadership Award from the New York State Association of Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3) for its composting project. 

“This is truly a campuswide award because of the large-scale effort involved in minimizing the impact on the planet and maximizing the benefits of thinking about sustainability,” Spector said.

In its first year, the composting pilot project diverted more than 80,000 pounds of food waste from landfills and incinerators, attracting many supporters and becoming implemented at all dining facilities.

Spector and the Office of Sustainability partnered with Auxiliary Services, the college’s dining services provider, and the Oswego County Division of Solid Waste to start up the program. Before the project, all food waste generated on campus was sent to a landfill or incinerator.

With this program, both pre-consumer food waste and non-donatable leftover food scraps were composted. Additionally, this program allowed for Bristol Hill Transfer Station to work towards becoming a designated organics recycling location. 

The pilot project also played out in two notable picnics that had amazing diversion rates, Spector said. The Employee Appreciation Picnic is summer 2022 achieved a diversion rate of 99.8 percent. The waste diversion rate measures the prevention and limiting of generated waste through source reduction, recycling, reuse and composting.

Spector said the picnic initiative started with the university’s Officer in Charge Mary Toale, and Stephen McAfee, executive director of Auxiliary Services, committing to be as sustainable as possible and making it happen with the diversion rate exceeding even their ambitious goal.

The second was the large Welcome Picnic in late August that welcomed the newest Lakers. It had a diversion rate of 87.5 percent. 

“Kate and her team take about the volume of a regular dumpster’s worth of food out of the waste stream every week,” McAfee said. “It’s remarkable.”

Ashley Budd, a senior graphic design major interning with the Sustainability Office, noted the project brings a lot of educational value for those who connect with and learn about it.

"I've really been learning about everything and I think, with composting specifically, I've been learning a lot about what composting means and how we work together as an office to make it all possible," Budd said. "It just makes me feel like I'm making a difference and I'm learning about it along the way."

These notable numbers and the efforts to lessen food waste and make SUNY Oswego a greener campus resulted in the organization presenting Spector and SUNY Oswego the award at the 2022 NYSAR3 Conference in November.

NYSAR3 is a professional membership organization which focuses on waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and organics management in New York state. Each year the organization recognizes outstanding achievers for dedication, innovation and passion toward lessening humanity’s impact on the planet. 

 For more information on SUNY Oswego's sustainability initiatives and programs, visit the Sustainability website.