Recipe for a Compost Bin

Applied Food Studies students: Gabrielle, Jillian and Alan standing proudly in the newly constructed compost bin.

The old proverb “April showers bring May flowers” holds true for this year as the Teaching Garden fills up with dainty white strawberries and blooming tomato plants. Under the May sunshine, there is something else new in our garden—a three-compartment composting bin! The construction of the compost bin is one of the assignments for the Projects in Applied Food Studies class with the goal of making our garden more sustainable. Constructing a compost bin will help us stay within the garden maintenance budget by producing our own compost. As project coordinator Jillian Vieracker says, “Composting is a fun way to show students how to reuse our food waste. Let’s get down to hippie building!”

Much like the blossoming May flowers, the compost bin also calls for preparations in April. To begin, all the construction materials are foraged or donated, so it’s more sustainable as a repurposing project as well. Here’s our “recipe” for building a compost bin:


  • Wooden pallets, locally sourced from the storeroom and the dumpsters on campus
  • Weatherproof paint
  • Repurposed screws (be sure to sort out the rusty ones!)
  • Chicken wire
  • Acrylic paints


  1. Paint the pallets with a base coat of weather proof paint.
  2. Allow pallets to dry in the sun, and then screw them together with the repurposed screws to create frames.
  3. Cover the secured frames with chicken wire. The chicken wire is an important component of the compost bin, used both to keep out animals and improve aeration for the decomposition process.
  4. Cut the chicken wire and staple loose ends to the frames with a staple gun to prevent injuries from sharp wires.
  5. Decorate the front and back of the compost bin and its ready to go!

Working on this project, we have connected the theories learned in class to our hand labor. As a school of culinarians, we have a certain appreciation (some would even say admiration) for the manual work of our trade. The construction of the compost bin certainly reinforces this idea. Yet this experience has also given us a different look into the value of incorporating craftsmanship into our lives outside of the kitchen. Sweating, lifting, and working through problems together under the sun are all part of what makes us proud of this project.

Spent grains from the Brewery at the CIA and coffee grounds from The Egg are among the sources for usable waste we expect to include. The Project in Applied Food Studies class is already beginning with our first batch of compost, starting with weeds pulled from the Teaching Garden. A first batch of compost is expected to be ready for use in early July. The next time you walk by the garden, be sure to check out the composting bin next to the shed!

As the summer approaches and our garden continues to bloom so beautifully under the sun, the Project in Applied Food Studies class will also host a Garden Party fundraiser to bring a beehive to our Teaching Garden! Additional proceeds will be donated to Heifer International to buy beehives for families in need around the globe and the Honeybee Conservancy for research and education on the Colony Collapse Disorder. Please join us on July 17! Tickets can be purchased at

By Yi Si (Crystal) Tan