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Environmental studies student and 2023 SUNY Chancellor's Award recipient Meredith Preve smiles next to NCCC's first compost bin. (Submitted)
Environmental studies student and 2023 SUNY Chancellor's Award recipient Meredith Preve smiles next to NCCC's first compost bin. (Submitted)

Student persuades NCCC administration to adopt composting program


Mon, Apr 24th 2023 10:10 am

By Niagara County Community College

During the spring 2022 semester, several NCCC students from professor Marc Pietrzykowski’s writing for STEM class completed a group research project about waste management at NCCC. Inspired, one of the group members, Meredith Preve, lifted the words from their paper and molded them into a new, hands-on project at the college.

“With encouragement from ‘Professor P,’ I decided to pursue making composting, which was a major focus of our paper, into a reality at NCCC,” Meredith said.

Working with NCCC’s College Association, dining services, and facilities departments to research potential partnerships that could bring this project to fruition, the team was able to draft a formal proposal and present it to Vice President of Administration Wayne Lynch.

We made the recommendation to stick with our current waste management company, Casella, to compost all organic waste from NCCC’s Dining Commons. Given the green light by the college, the team ordered their first barrel to house food scraps, including meats and fats.

The first successful pickup was in early March. According to Meredith, all departments involved say the new composting program is going well. There are even plans to expand the program to the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute (NFCI). The project has also inspired the Dining Commons and operations staff to pursue more options like recycling programs to increase the sustainability of the campus.

“This was an easy issue to choose,” Meredith said. “Food waste is not a controversial issue.

“When it comes to the environment, there are hundreds of things that we can all agree on that just makes sense. Apathy is silly and it weaponizes hopelessness. We can all make a difference.”

When Meredith isn’t incorporating sustainability programs at SUNY colleges, she is leading the NCCC outdoor activities club. During Earth Week, the group of environmentalist students spent time making do-it-yourself “seed bombs,” packed with wildflower seeds that can be grown to feed pollinating insects. The group also hosted a mushroom hunt where professor Scott Sackett led a fungi foraging session with proper tools and instruction on finding delicious morsels across the 287-acre campus.

In addition to her green efforts, Meredith is active in NCCC’s Phi Theta Kappa honor society, Team Compost, Master Gardeners of Niagara County, and Guiding Eyes for the Blind. An environmental studies major, Meredith plans to graduate next month with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.

Her impact at NCCC has made waves all the way to Albany, as she is a 2023 recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, the highest honor bestowed upon a student by the State University of New York higher education system. She will officially receive her award from the Albany Capital Center on Monday, April 24.

Homeschooled from middle through high school, Meredith said, “College is truly what you make of it. NCCC offered me a meaningful, interdisciplinary education. I was amazed by what I could achieve here in only two years.”

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