The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized Keene State College for its composting program.

The college took first place in the federal agency’s 2019 National Food Recovery Challenge for being the institution of higher learning that saw the most growth in preventing or diverting food waste, according to a news release from the college. In announcing the winners of the challenge, the EPA noted that Keene State had more than doubled the amount of food waste it composted in a year, the college’s release said.

“The weight of compost collected increased from 41.76 tons in 2017 to 110.66 tons in 2018. The reduced cost for composting, compared to landfillings, saved the school $4,324. As a result, Keene State College expanded composting to other food service vendors in the Student Center beginning the summer of 2019,” the EPA stated.

Keene State officials have set a goal of qualifying as a zero-waste campus by 2030, according to the college’s news release. In an effort to reach that goal, college officials ramped up Keene State’s composting program in December 2017 to have most of the food waste from the Zorn Dining Commons be composted rather than dumped into a landfill, the release said. Some of the material created from the composting process is then used for the college’s lawns and gardens, according to the release.

Composting is the process by which organic materials are collected and allowed to degrade naturally into a nutrient-rich substance that can be added to soil.

The National Food Challenge is a voluntary incentive initiative that is part of the EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program. The EPA works with organizations and businesses that pledge to set goals and implement strategies to reduce their food waste. These organizations and businesses then report their results for the annual recognition, the website says.

Keene State was one of 172 schools nationwide to participate in the competition, college spokeswoman Kelly Ricaurte said.

“Keene State College is thrilled with the success of its expanded composting program,” Cary Gaunt, director of campus sustainability, said in the news release. “Not only does it move the college forward in attaining its ambitious zero-waste by 2030 goal, but it saves money and models full-circle composting.”

She added, “We love that compost generated from Keene State food waste is returned to our campus landscaping as a nutrient-rich finished compost. The program is a ‘win-win’ all around!”