Registered: December 2012
View this Member's Photo Gallery
Growing up in Seattle, composting seemed second nature to me. Everything seemed so simple; eat my banana and put my peel in the green bin. With this second nature, I was appalled to learn that Milwaukee, the school I attend college in does not compost. I chose to do an Apprentice Ecologist project because I wanted to see change on my university so that it became a more environmentally aware campus.
First, let me back up a little bit and give a little information about myself. My name is Max Bertellotti and I am a freshman at Marquette University, a private Jesuit-school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Even as a little kid I always had a “green” side I proudly displayed. I remember being disturbed learning about global warming and its ecological consequences and later teaching my family about global warming. During high school, I focused on initiatives like advocating against plastic water bottles or against harmful boating pollutants in a local marina. This year has been my biggest challenge yet. As a college student I feel I have both the opportunity and responsibility to create change around me.
I created change by reverting back to something I was so familiar with living in Seattle: composting. I wanted my school to compost on campus and so three friends and I set out to accomplish this goal. After attending our school’s environmental club for a few weeks, I noticed nothing was truly getting accomplished. A few days of research led us to conclude that the only way for Marquette to be able to compost would be with the help of an outside organization. Ten or so bus rides and multiple meetings later my friends and I found an organization that would be perfect to help accomplish our goal. This organization is called Growing Power and for no-charge they will pick-up compost from certain areas in Milwaukee.
The four of us then met with administrators all over campus ranging from the special assistant to the president to my political science professor until we finally spoke with Marquette’s Head of Sustainability and Stewardship, Mike Whittow. Mr. Whittow was extremely supportive of our efforts even if he could not comply with all our goals. We determined that the best way to collect compost would be at Marquette’s dining halls. Large quantities of food and so large quantities of food waste, multiple locations with trained workers, it seemed perfect. Mr. Whittow informed us that groups had been attempting to establish a composting program over the past decade or so, yet no group had been able to accomplish the task.
We then scheduled a meeting between Growing Power, ourselves and Mike Whittow and within a few hours a contract was signed for Marquette to compost for the first time. What had previously taken a decade to start, I helped accomplish in three months.
Our goal is not over or without bumps in the road however. Currently, Growing Power is only able to collect pre-consumer waste, waste that has not been cooked, eaten or prepared. This means things such as corn husks, banana peels, stale bread or unused food may be composted. This also meant that the food waste from students is not currently being composted. There still is work to be done and an envelope still has yet to be pushed, however since Thanksgiving, Marquette University is composting for the first time.
What this project has taught me is that I can accomplish things by simply talking to the right people and by being persistent. The main difference between myself and the other groups trying to start composting before is persistence. I am a persistent person with a drive to seek positive change in my community. In my new community of Milwaukee I think it is incredibly important for a progressive and respected institution like Marquette to be a leader. Ecologically, there seems a lot more Milwaukee can do and composting is a great first step.
Composting on a large scale has the potential to benefit many different aspects of life in the Milwaukee area. From nutrition to waste management and sustainability, composting can enhance the community and Marquette’s leadership serves as a beacon for the city.
I do not plan on letting this project slide and have already been in contact with the parties involved on how Marquette and Growing Power can go even further. Whether this means allowing post-consumer waste or expanding in area or reaching out to new schools, progress will be made. I learned I do not give up easily and am able to leverage assets I need even if I do not control them. I am excited for the future and am proud of the work I can accomplish, have accomplished and will accomplish.