Café X Wants to Compost

Campaign Attempts Dialogue After Repeated Refusals

Erin Sparks

After years of failed attempts to bring compost to Concordia’s Visual Arts complex, managers from the student-run Café X have started a petition to pressure the university to bring compost collection bins to the building.

“Students and faculty alike ask us where our compost is at the VA,” said Café X Manager Laura Hudspith, who started the petition last week.

“That’s telltale enough, which is why this petition is now in place—because it’s coming from the students who are paying for their education.”

An entirely not-for-profit enterprise, Café X actively tries to minimize waste in the daily operations of their two locations, in the VA and EV Buildings respectively, purchasing 100 per cent biodegradable cups and utensils made from renewable resources.

According to Hudspith, the student-managed café’s unofficial mandate is to maintain a small ecological footprint, and “composting is definitely a big part of what we’re interested in doing.”

Concordia restricts its compost collection downtown exclusively to the Hall, MB and EV Buildings.

Since beginning her tenure as manager, Hudspith says she has been trying to bring a compost bin into the VA, still without success.

She tried reaching out to the Fine Arts department’s administration, working with student coordinator Tricia Middleton to find a solution.

That didn’t work out.

Middleton said she was unable to comment when contacted by The Link, and Hudspith is unsure who Middleton tried coordinating with.

Hudspith also tried partnering with the Fine Arts Student Alliance, and started talking with Sustainable Concordia, the university’s environmental arm, over the summer.

Eventually, the latter request was also denied.

“Their final thing was, ‘You can buy [a compost] from the university for $50 and then your staff would have to bring it over every night to the EV Building,’” she said.

To Hudspith, getting staff to take care of it was out of the question, and former manager Lindsey Fryett agreed.

“Compost is heavy when it’s wet coffee grounds. It just didn’t seem appropriate to ask them to carry it three blocks,” Fryett said.

Hudspith thinks the refusals might be motivated by money.

“I think, because the university is a business, it must be financially related,” she said. “A compost bin isn’t expensive—but maintenance could be.”

Lack of Able Bodies

Facilities Management, which oversees all custodial and maintenance services on campus grounds, took over collection and operation of compost from Sustainable Concordia last year.

The Link was unable to reach Custodial and Grounds Services Manager Marc Champagne prior to press time, but supervisor Brad Poapst said there were no plans by Facilities Management to enlarge compost collection from current levels.

“Right now, only one guy or girl is doing the entire VA Building,” said Hannah McCormick, member of the Sustainable Concordia working group R4, which is responsible for auditing waste on campus.

“I think they’re a bit overwhelmed and so Facilities Management did not want to add to their already large task list.”

Compost at Concordia is treated at the Loyola campus, where the university houses a mid-size industrial composter—the first for any university in Quebec.

All of the compost from the downtown campus is transported to Loyola from the loading dock outside the Hall Building, explained McCormick.

“For the annexes and the Hall Building, it’s quite easy because it’s not a far walk at all to get it down [to the loading dock],” said McCormick.

“But, when you start thinking about having to pay someone extra to cart it all the way from the VA Building it gets a little more complicated, especially since that part of the job isn’t written into the contracts yet.”

“It’s really an issue of just not having the human resources to do it right now for the buildings who are further away,” she said.

Meeting in the Middle

The petition, which has collected over 200 signatures, will soon be delivered to the dean of students for the faculty of Fine Arts.

Before that happens, however, Hudspith said she needs to draft a written plan, which she will present to Associate Dean Ana Cappelluto.

“It’s kind of an action plan, but also a history of who we’ve spoken to […] and that we are aware that Concordia has the infrastructure for composting,” she clarified.

But according to McCormick, without a contractual agreement with custodians to collect compost, buildings like the VA will need to do it themselves.

“The thing is, anyone can get composting if they put a lot of time and energy into moving it around themselves,” she said.

“If a volunteer from the VA Building would just walk the compost down to the Hall Building, then it would be easy.”

On the other hand, Hudspith said she believes maintenance staffs are more equipped to handle the waste.

Unlike custodial staff, Café X baristas are not equipped with dollies or vans to carry compost bags over to another building, said Hudspith.

“Essentially, we’re just asking to incorporate the VA Building into the composting infrastructure the university already has
in place.”