New Kensington campus to offer composting workshop in the fall

August 20, 2014

Learn the ins and outs of starting a home compost at the Backyard Composting Workshop from 6 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 23, in the Conference Center at Penn State New Kensington. The event is free to the public.

Ellen Keefer, a Penn State Master Gardener, will offer tips on providing the right environment for composting microbes and turning garden waste into nutrient-rich compost. An ancient practice, composting is the breaking down of organic material, such as leaves and food wastes. The result is a soil-like substance that can be used as a soil additive or as mulch for gardens and flower beds.

“Fall compost season is upon us, and we want to help you get off to a good start,” said Keefer, executive director of Westmoreland Cleanways. “Begin composting now, and you’ll have a supply of compost ready for spring planting.”

The event is co-hosted by the Green Team at the New Kensington campus and Westmoreland Cleanways. The Green Team is a group of students, faculty and staff volunteers who are committed to reducing waste and exploring ways to use resources responsibly. Westmoreland Cleanways is a nonprofit organization that maintains the environmental qualities of Westmoreland County in western Pennsylvania. The organization sponsors programs that address the proper disposal of solid waste through recycling, special collections and the cleanup of illegal dumpsites and littered areas.

The workshop is funded by the Sustainability Institute at Penn State. The institute awarded the campus an $11,000 grant recently to support educational activities -- courses, workshops, class projects -- and to improve recycling efforts, develop a composting site and expand the pollinator garden.

The compost site, located in the back of the campus near the water treatment plant, will be nourished with pre- and post-consumption food waste from Café 780, the campus' main eatery. The grand opening of the site is scheduled for Sept. 10. The compost products will feed the pollinator garden, which is located in the southwest section of the campus, adjacent to the campus' nature trail. The garden serves as a habitat for native birds, bees and butterflies.

Sustainability activities are under the auspices of the campus’ Green Team: Andrea Adolph, director of academic affairs; Ruth Herstek, administrative support assistant for academic affairs and one of the leaders of the team; Joan Kowalski, senior instructor in engineering; Lauren Blum, assistant to the director of student affairs; Theresa Bonk, director of student affairs; Donald Bruckner, assistant professor of philosophy; Jason Bush, director of business and finance; Bonnie Godfrey, administrative support assistant for business services; Randy Tressler, maintenance supervisor; Amy Rustic, reference librarian; and Deborah Sillman, senior instructor in biology.

Penn State has been the leader in sustainability initiatives among colleges and universities. The University has invested more than $875,000 in collaborative projects intended to improve and expand sustainability efforts across the institution. Established in 2008, the Sustainability Institute promotes and ensures environmentally-safe activity at Penn State. Its initiatives protect and enhance the financial, human and ecological resources of the University and the planet.

For information on the composting workshop or to join the campus green team, contact Ruth Herstek at 724-334-6032 or

For more about sustainability at the campus, visit

For more on the Sustainability Institute, visit

For more about Westmoreland Cleanways, visit

(Media Contacts)

Bill Woodard

Work Phone: 
Home Phone: 
Cell Phone: 
Last Updated August 21, 2014