Macalester Today Fall 2010

Make Dirt Not Waste

The slogan of Eureka! Recycling’s new compost project is “Make dirt, not waste.” And with 1,100 households in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood participating, they’re liable to make a lot of dirt. Eureka’s project, funded in part by Macalester’s High Winds Fund, is focused on educating the
community about how to reduce waste at the source and transform trash into nutrient-rich soil.

Collaborating on the project is Christie Manning, professor of behavioral psychology at Mac.
“People today don’t realize that the amount of waste they generate is abnormal,” says Manning. “It’s
what our neighbors do, it’s what we see on TV—everyone has big garbage cans and the waste just
goes away,” she says. Her role in the project is to investigate which factors motivate community participation, thus ultimately designing a program that will encourage more involvement.

Via workshops, waste sorts, surveys, interviews, and more surveys, Manning and Eureka are trying to determine the barriers and motivators that are at play in the decision to compost. For example, does the novelty of having a bike rather than a truck haul away compost increase enthusiasm for the program?

Ultimately, the results of Manning’s research will be used, she says, to furnish “a much bigger vision for a program accessible to everybody.” Eureka! Recycling plans to ultimately design and implement a city-wide composting program to help St. Paul achieve its goal of becoming a waste-free city by 2020.

—Kalie Caetano ’13