Bobcat Blend: Save Our Skid Steer

The Bobcat Blend composting program at Texas State University has been using a Caterpillar Bobcat Skid Steer since the program’s inception in 2008. The Bobcat Skid Steer is a used piece of equipment purchased through a grant. This past summer, 2015, the engine on the bobcat came into disrepair. We have been attempting to raise the funds necessary for repairs through compost sales and plant and flower sales from our greenhouse production. With the bobcat being in disrepair, though, compost sales are more difficult since more labor is required to process the food waste and then screen and load the compost.

The Bobcat Blend compost project began in 2008 through a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality with the hopes of developing a waste management campus composting and education program which would reduce the amount of organic waste headed to the landfill from campus. When the project was initiated, cafeteria waste from two dining halls and invasive species from the San Marcos River which runs through campus were some of the original feedstocks used in compost piles. However, the project has expanded to include collections from all cafeterias with the exception of LBJ Student Center. Additionally, the project collects leaves and tree trimmings from the Grounds Department, coffee grounds from the Honors Department, food waste from the Child Development Center and the Nutrition Labs, grass clippings from the sports fields and golf course and laboratory and garden waste from the Agriculture Department. The program seasonally collects carcasses of invasive fish species and leaves and pumpkins from the City of San Marcos. Additionally, the program has issued kitchen compost collection containers to offices and off campus students who can collect and bring their green waste back to a collection bin. Last school year, 81.1 tons of food waste were collected (down from previous years due to renovations in multiple dining halls which closed cafeterias for periods of time). Additionally, the program collected 150 yards of grounds waste, 160 yards of city leaf waste and 90 yards of river waste/invasive species. Between August 2013 and May 2014, 6-8 students collected and processed approximately 140.5 tons of food waste to produce Bobcat Blend compost (an increase from 80.7 tons in 2012-2013, 57 tons in 2011-2012 and 27 tons in 2010-2011). The program has won several awards including, most recently, a US Composting Council Compost Program of the Year award for 2016. They have also been recognized with a TxSWANA Finest Award for 2013-2014 (Texas Solid Waste Association of North America). In 2013, Bobcat Blend Composting was recognized as one of the top 10 environmental programs in the state when the program was presented with the Pollution Prevention Environmental Educational Award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), an agency of the State of Texas. In April 2012, Bobcat Blend Composting won the Pollution Prevention Finalist Award from the same organization. Bobcat Blend also won a Texas State University Boko Award in 2012 and the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce Green Business Award in 2013.

Before the program’s inception, it was estimated that approximately 600 pounds of food waste was thrown in the trash each day at the university cafeterias. Bobcat Blend works with university students and staff to educate them on the importance of organic waste diversion and provide them the supplies and methods to help contribute to diversion. Students have partnered with the City of San Marcos to educate the community by offering the Master Composter certification program seasonally. Additionally, the Bobcat Blend program has helped to remove existing invasive species and their potential propagules from sensitive habitats where they are threatening the San Marcos River’s ecosystem and the endangered species it is home to. The compost produced moves full circle back into the greenhouse and gardens on campus, and excess is sold to support the program. Compost used in the Agriculture campus greenhouses and gardens reduces the costs for classes and labs, while also reducing the need for irrigation (by an estimated 40%), fertilizer (no synthetic fertilizers are applied at all in garden areas) and pesticides (no pesticides are applied in the garden with the exception of fire ant control and sometimes wasp spray when fire ants or wasps threaten student health). Compost is applied in the garden where it reduces runoff and increases percolation of water into the soil profile, thereby decreasing the potential for flooding and/or contamination from other potential areas of runoff (streets and other parts of campus) into Sessoms Creek below our Living Library garden.

By reaching our goal of $10,000, you will be helping Bobcat Blend continue operations into the coming years with a newly-repaired Bobcat Skid Steer. Thank you for your consideration of our project.

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Kevin Walsh 
San Marcos, TX
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