When St. Thomas students pick up their caramel macchiatos, they aren’t the only ones getting an energy boost. So do eisenia fetida, also known as red wiggler worms, in the compost bins with the coffee grounds.
The buckets of coffee grounds and containers of squirming worms in the parking garage under the Anderson Student Center are all in a day’s work for senior Quinn Wrenholt. His first stop is Coffee Bene in the library.
“This coffee vender, they fill up at least one bucket every single day if not two. They say that’s only going to increase as the semester continues,” Wrenholt said. “They’re my biggest producer at this point of the semester. They’re my biggest producer at this point of the places I collect.”
Coffee Bene Assistant Manager Travis Lundberg said he appreciates the effort Wrenholt is making to be more sustainable.
“You watch somebody like throw it in the trash and you’re like, ‘What’re you doing? You gotta put it in the bucket. It’s for the compost,’” Lundberg said.
Wrenholt also collects grounds from the Summit Market Place and the Loft.
“I have a total of 20 stacks,” Wrenhold said. “I’ve just been slowly filling them up over the course of the semester so far.”
Before the grounds can be taken to the worms, the bins collect have to be consolidated. With this, the project comes full circle, from the energy boost to the fresh compost. Happy worms eat the waste to make good soil.
“You just dump them (the worms) in and they’ll start to colonize your bin,” Wrenhold said. “That’s a big factor of this too, you want happy worms because then they make more worm babies and you get more active composting.”
As the relationship between coffee vendors and campus sustainability develops, the project can only grow.
“Once I graduate, I want to make sure that it is nicely integrated into the university so the project doesn’t just burn bright and die with me but continues on with some fellow students,” Wrenholt said.
Caroline Rode contributed to this report.
Zach Zumbusch can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.