UH Hilo students in ag course tackle organic wastes on campus by composting

AG 294 (Agricultural Waste Management: Composting and Vermicomposting) is designed as a co-curricular organization to take lead on a pilot waste management program at the UH Hilo campus.

By Alexis Stubbs, Sophomore, Tropical Horticulture.

Students with shovels and pitch forks turning large compost pile.
Students in Ag294, Agricultural Waste Management: Composting and Vermicomposting, tend a compost pile. Photos courtesy Norman Arancon, click to enlarge.

For a solution to be truly sustainable, it must have a positive return to environment and society. This semester, Norman Arancon, associate professor of horticulture, has introduced a course that is structured and provided opportunity to do just that. Prof. Arancon has designed his course, AG 294 (Agricultural Waste Management: Composting and Vermicomposting) as a co-curricular organization, to take lead on a pilot waste management program on our University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus.

Shredded paper in bin.
Shredded paper is collected on campus for composting. Click to enlarge.

The pilot program was first introduced in 2009 by the Ag Club, led by Jesse Potter. It has generated a lot of support and interest from the succeeding students in Ag Club and the UH Hilo Student Association (UHHSA). Last semester the sustainability committee of UHHSA took the lead in collecting post-consumer food wastes from the UH Hilo dining hall and composting these resource into valuable soil amendments to support the gardens around the campus.

This semester, we are hoping to bring the program to the next level: Establishing an efficient sustainable system to manage the organic waste on our campus that can be adopted each semester at no additional cost.

Students checking collection bins on plaza.
Collection station at the Campus Center Plaza.

Prof. Arancon’s class, composed of 15 students, is currently focused on maintaining the compost and vermicompost sites by the Agriculture Building along with collecting organic waste from the newly introduced collection stations around campus. With the collaboration between Professor Arancon’s students, the support of the UH Hilo’s Sustainability Committee chair Ryan Perroy, assistant professor of geography, and the approval and assistance from Kolin Kettleson, director of Auxiliary Services, a total of six collection stations have been integrated on campus where all students and faculty can participate in sustainable efforts:

  • One station in University Classroom Building.
  • Three stations on the Campus Plaza.
  • Three stations on the Library Lanai.

The stations include four bins: Hi-5, Trash, Compost, and Paper Waste.

The blue recycle bins (Hi-5) are maintained by Lorna Tsutsumi, professor of entomology, and her crew.

Prof. Arancon’s students collect the compost material twice a week and add it to the composting sites accordingly while maintaining the temperature and nutrient content at favorable levels. The cooperation and participation between faculty and students has allowed this pilot program to begin smooth sailing.

A mix of chopped organic waste in bin.
Collected organic wastes in compost bins.


Students interested in learning more about the project or wanting to get involved, participation throughout the entire agriculture college and campus is encouraged and valued.

Stop by CAB201 (College of Ag) Tuesday’s and Thursday’s at 12:00 p.m. to learn more or email Alexis Stubbs (alexis33[at]hawaii.edu) for more information and for volunteer opportunities.

Alexis Stubbs (sophomore, tropical horticulture) is focusing her studies on sustainable agriculture methods.