Town meeting provides sustainability updates for Cabell County

Epperly+standing+next+to+her+sustainability+art+project+on+the+second+floor+of+Drinko+Library.

Photo Courtesy of Sabrina Thomas

Epperly standing next to her sustainability art project on the second floor of Drinko Library.

In hopes of sustainability involvement in Huntington and on campus, Marshall students, staff and Cabell county officials discuss sustainability efforts on Feb. 25 during a virtual town hall meeting.

“Not everybody who stops at a recycling bin has good intentions,” Mark Buchanan, Cabell County Solid Waste Authority, said. “Materials that were dropped in would contaminate entire loads, and it hurts me because it really undercuts our message for sustainability.”

Due to the lack of waste knowledge and mixing the wrong products in recycling bins, Cabell County residents who wish to recycle must pay a yearly fee for proper containers and access to the county facility. Buchanan said Cabell County does not have a composting facility because of improper management.

To increase the composting activity in Cabell County, Amy Parsons-White, Marshall University sustainability manager, said she has been working with senators and delegates to po- tentially take composting beyond Marshall’s campus.

“There is actually a Senate bill going through that could open up the rules for composting in the state of West Virginia,” Parsons-White said.

Although Cabell County has work to do with sustainability and composting, Marshall’s sustainability department and club have continuously collected data for the university to successfully pass the first plastic-pledge in Appalachia and have the first compost facility in West Virginia.

Parsons-White said she is proud of the compost facility that will allow the department to compost paper, cardboard, food waste and lawn waste. She said once the facility is operational, Marshall will be 70% waste-free.

The facility will have a typical compost that will go through a digester and a 5’ x 40’ worm bed that can hold 50,000 red- wigglers, which will allow the department to produce worm castings.

Parson-White said the goal is to have the facility open to the public two months after finishing compost recipes and electric work inside the facility. The sustainability department is not ready to take compost yet, but they have six outdoor compost containers placed around campus. Parsons-White emphasized that any Marshall student who wants to participate in the compost facility must put their compost in a brown paper bag.

With the help of Baleigh Epperly, sustainability club president, the plastic-pledge and compost mission on campus is also available for viewing purposes to students and staff in the Drinko Library. While studying, students can view Epperly’s piece of art on the second floor of the library.

The piece features an aged black trash bag background with waste materials collected on campus and from Epperly’s personal collection.

page1image54244480
PHOTO COURTESY OF BALEIGH EPPERLY

Epperly said she used flowers and butterflies to symbolize hope along with the will to change and transition into a more sustainable way of life. She said she created the piece to bring awareness to the plastic production and pollution crisis.

“Maybe you look at my piece, and you get mad that we are doing this to ourselves and the planet,” Epperly said. “I would hope from that emotion, an action would arise and that we can hold industries and companies accountable for the things that they are producing because it is absolutely not a consumer problem at all. It is definitely a production problem, in my opinion.”

The sustainability department has partnered with Sodexo General Manager, Mark Arnold, to work more on the plastic pledge that Marshall President Jerome Gilbert signed in the spring semester of 2021.

Arnold said his job is to contact the food brands on campus to see where their efforts are with the plastic pledge. According to Arnold, Chick-Fil-A already has a paper product — but not necessarily a compostable paper product — to replace, while Steak and Shake is farther behind in their efforts to transition products.

“College campuses are — in my opinion — the best place to have these sorts of groundbreaking things happening because you have a large population, and you can affect businesses’ decisions,” Arnold said.

Xena Bunton can be contacted at [email protected]