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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UAs compost cats take to Jacksonville to talk food security and greening the world

    Courtesy of UA Alumni Associatio
    Compost Cats attended a compost conference in Jacksonville, Florida in January. The Compost Cats work closely with San Xavier Co-Op farm to reduce food waste.

    Compost Cats, the UA’s student-run composting program, recently attended a conference put on by the U.S. Composting Council in Jacksonville, Florida.
    The conference, called COMPOST 2016: Soils for a Greener World, was the 24th annual conference and tradeshow run by the U.S. Composting Council.
    The conference took place from Jan. 25 to Jan. 28. The program, according to the U.S. Composting Council’s website, is “the world’s largest composting conference and exhibition for the organics management industry” and is a chance for leaders in the composting industry to discuss the latest ideas and research in the field.
    The conference included lectures on everything from “Why Local Government Should Support Community Composting” to “The Business of Composting: Cost Reductions and Lessons Learned,” as well as a tradeshow for the newest advancements in composting equipment. This marks the second year Compost Cats has attended the conference.
    Three UA students in Compost Cats attended the event. Shelby Hoglund, a senior studying environmental sciences with an emphasis in pollution, Michaela Webb, an environmental science sophomore, and Christian Hegstrom, a biosystem engineering sophomore. They not only had the opportunity to attend lectures and workshops at the conference, but were also able to give a presentation as part of a session on regional approaches to the composting industry.
    Hegstrom and Webb presented on the Compost Cats’ history and origins, their partnerships and the current projects they are working on. The presentation was titled “Three Governments, Two Nations, One Goal: Compost Cats, Comida and Culture Change.”
    Hegstrom said this title references their work on the San Xavier Co-op Farm located south of Tucson and that “the ‘two nations’ part [references] the U.S. and then the Native American Reservation.”
    The presentation finished with a discussion about the organization’s current projects. Webb said she finished the presentation talking about Compost Cats’ work with food security and how it is affected by Tucson’s proximity to Nogales, Arizona.
    Webb explained that food insecurity is a very serious issue right now.
    “We have the third highest rates of childhood food insecurity in the nation,” Webb said. “So it’s like there’s a ton of food, there’s a ton of hungry people and there’s a ton of food being wasted. So how do we connect the dots and get the food to the people who need it?”
    Compost Cats plans to connect those dots with a food processing facility to be set up in an old Tucson Unified School District building.
    Food would be canned and dried, then sold at low prices.
    Conferences such as this one allow Compost Cats to discuss the work they are doing on nationwide scale and to continue expanding their members’ professional opportunities.

    “A lot of folks in the compost industry are older and they care a lot about the industry and they want to see it continue and when they see young people super involved, they’re really excited about it,” Webb said. “So after our presentation, a couple people came up to us and were like, ‘Hey, after graduation or this summer if you need a job, come work for me.’ So that felt really good.”

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