Rutgers–Camden Student’s Environmentally Friendly Art Project Teaches Campus Community About Composting

Victoria Widener's art project teaches the campus community about composting.

Victoria Widener’s art project teaches the campus community about composting.

CAMDEN — Most people might discard their apple cores and banana peels in the nearest garbage bin, but where they see trash, Victoria Widener sees art.

The Rutgers–Camden student is teaching the campus community about composting through an environmentally-friendly art project.

“To some people, my composting project may not be seen as art, but for me, it’s a true expression,” says Widener, a junior art major from Maple Shade.

Widener made an acrylic compost tumbler and set it up outside the Fine Arts Building on the Rutgers–Camden campus so passersby can watch the natural decomposition of the materials inside.

“I titled this piece The Beauty of Decomposition because I wanted to relay the message that things we take for granted, like our orange and banana peels, actually have the potential to become something beautiful,” Widener says. “If I can show people with this project that beauty is present in even the most unexpected materials, I have succeeded.”

Widener is encouraging the Rutgers–Camden community to drop compostable items, such as orange and banana peels and apple cores, in the green bins located next to the tumbler and in the Campus Center cafeteria. She empties the contents of the bins into the tumbler several times per week.

The organic waste in the composter will soon become a soil rich in nutrients which Widener will use to feed and nurture flowers to be planted around the Camden community.

“To me, the cycle of life being created in composting is art in its own right,” Widener says.

The Maple Shade High School graduate says she composts at home and would always have to carry a plastic bag to campus so she could save her peels and cores throughout the day.

“Today, I simply stop by one of my green collection bins on campus and add to the compost which will soon feed gardens in Camden,” Widener says. “By encouraging the community to add their own organic waste, I feel as though I’m allowing for both visual stimulation and hands-on participation.”

Widener says she’ll continue collecting organic waste and filling the tumbler through the end of the spring semester, then donate it for use in Camden’s gardens.

“I hope to help raise awareness of using compost for nutrient-rich soil by simply showing people that a trash can is not their only option,” Widener says. “If I have enticed even one person to start composting, or even just to think before throwing organic waste away to consume landfills, the project was a success.”

Widener will be presenting The Beauty of Decomposition at Rutgers–Camden’s annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity on April 18 in the Campus Center Multi-Purpose Room from noon to 1:30 p.m. For more about CURCA, visit fas.camden.rutgers.edu/student-experience/undergraduate-research/curca.

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