CMU students create compost project for school-wide sustainability in Grand Junction |

CMU students create compost project for school-wide sustainability in Grand Junction

CMU Junior Ryan McConnell works happily at his pet project, the CMU/WCCC Food Waste Composting Project. The compost site is located at Grand Junction's Western Colorado Community College.
Caitlin Row / | Free Press

“This has got a good chunk!”

“Look, that has some mold growing on it.”

Colorado Mesa University students Audrey Carlson, 21, and Ryan McConnell, 22, both junior environmental science majors, happily chatted about the consistency of food waste Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 2) while working on their joint project — a compost facility at Western Colorado Community College (WCCC) in Grand Junction.

Known as the CMU/WCCC Food Waste Composting Project, the work site was completed by the students at the beginning of September. Located between two greenhouses behind the WCCC’s main building, the outdoor compost site is now bustling with activity and smelling as it should — a combination of rotting food and manure.

“It’s alive! It’s great, and it’s just the right kind of dirty,” McConnell said.

Carlson added: “We get about 20 five-gallon buckets of food each week.”

The students also plan to make their project sustainable for years to come by selling finished compost back to CMU’s ground crew to use on the campus. That way, when they graduate the project will be able to run without them.

“We’re funded by the student government,” McConnell said. “We were awarded a little over $20,000” to get the project started. “It’s student-run with three paid positions, for pay and credit.

“We wanted to do something that helps the environment, creates jobs and a learning laboratory.”

According to John Heideman, an enthusiastic volunteer and culinary student at WCCC, this project would not be around without Carlson and McConnell’s planning and forethought, including Carlson’s summer internship with Soil Stewardship in Fort Collins.

There, Carlson said she worked under compost expert Kathy Doesken — learning every component of the composting process, including marketing and selling — so she could get a working compost site open for CMU.

“I believe in their project, and I just help,” 65-year-old Heideman said. “They didn’t do it for money. They did it for the love of it.”

Want to help? A fundraising event for the CMU/WCCC Food Waste Composting Project is currently scheduled for Nov. 1, from 5-7 p.m. at the University Center Ballroom.

“We’ll have movies, education, demonstrations, food and beer,” McConnell said. “You can buy tickets at the door or at the information booth at the University Center.”

Tickets are $10 for students, and $15 for everyone else.

Want to learn more about sustainable projects at CMU? Visit

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