A team of Colby-Sawyer students has been selected from 95 entries to advance to the final round of the New Hampshire Social Venture Innovation Challenge (SVIC), which will be held Thursday, Nov. 29, at the University of New Hampshire.

The SVIC invites individuals and teams from across the state of New Hampshire to identify pressing social and/or environmental issues at the state, national or global level, and then find an innovative business-oriented approach to solving them.

The five environmental science majors’ proposal, The Potential for Leaf Waste at Colby-Sawyer College, is one of eight on the student track chosen to compete for a top award of $5,000 cash and other prizes. The finals will be judged by a panel of social venture experts, including notable state leaders.

Advised by Professor of Natural and Environmental Studies Leon-C Malan and Assistant Professor of Business Administration Loren Wehmeyer, the Colby-Sawyer students hope to replace an existing small-scale composting operation with a permanent compost site. More than 50 tons of leaves are collected on campus every fall and dumped, yet every spring the college buys compost and mulch. Combining the leaves with each week’s 800 pounds of food waste from the dining hall will save the college money and close the food system loop to become more environmentally sustainable and resilient. The students estimate they can create 12-15 tons of compost per year and would sell the excess to local growers.

“This is an excellent idea. The students supported their proposal with solid data and a cost/benefit analysis,” Professor Malan said. “This innovative idea addresses cost reduction for the college, it lowers our carbon footprint and it cultivates community connection. The beauty of the proposal is in its simplicity and in its widespread application.”

“When my group started researching leaf composting, we got excited, and now the time we put into the project has paid off,” environmental science major Anna Hubbard ’20 of Marlow, N.H., said. “We have been experimenting with hot composting and have reached 145 degrees in the pile. It's amazing to see the bacteria working away at the leaves and ecovim from the dining hall!”

The other juniors behind the proposal, all part of the Community-Based Research class required for third-year environmental science and environmental studies majors, are Peter Bakker of Barkhamsted, Conn.; Rebecca Budrock of Hurleyville, N.Y.; Carrie Cree of Concord, N.H.; Taylor Devaney of Highgate Center, Vt.; Jessica Dupuis of Pelham, N.H.; Timothy Gablosky of Fremont, N.H.; Hubbard; Nathan Lavigne of Berlin, Vt.; Cameron Lynch of Haverhill, Mass.; Colby Reardon of Groton, Mass.; Abigail Shute of Sutton, Mass.; and Taylor Spadafora of Stafford, N.H.

Watch their video at youtu.be/-0qUvR2SfHE.

For more information on the SVIC, visit unh.edu/social-innovation/svic.