(e)SCoOP:  Sustainable Composting and Outreach Program

Compost illustration with shovel and plant. Purchased from Flaticon.com

SCoOP: Research to learn about composting and the microbes and conditions that promote the process. Events and resources to share findings, raise awareness, and encourage collaboration. Illustration from Flaticon.com.

The (e)SCoOP

The theme for this summer’s Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions course is The Future of Food. Composting efforts on campus have been increasing as well as research to maximize the creation of value-added compost products to enhance soil quality and productivity. With the opening of Fitts-Woolard Hall and the Plant Sciences Building and advances in computational, agricultural engineering, and molecular biology tools on campus, we have the unique opportunity to bring together several units on campus to increase composting knowledge to enhance organic residue stabilization, soil productivity, and quality while engaging students in research and education experiences. 

Does our campus community know about the exciting opportunities in sustainability, community engagement, and research related to composting? 

The objective of this project is to create new opportunities for student research and engagement that directly impact sustainability and align with the campus sustainability vision.

From a research standpoint, it is critical to quantify microbial community composition and dynamics throughout the composting process and determine how microbes can shape the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the composting process. Novel products, such as biochar, have been shown to reduce both biosafety concerns[1] and GHG emissions[2], while increasing the carbon sequestration potential of compost. 

Understanding how different microbial communities influence GHG emissions and how biochar can be leveraged in composting different residues (production byproducts, consumption byproducts) is critical to develop recommendations for use and to ensure safe, sustainable organic residue management.


SCoOP Timeline updated December 2022. We have completed Steps 1-3 and are currently working on Step 4 in preparation for Step 5 in January 2023. Step 5 consists of outlining a detailed description of how a process needs to be performed to go from compost samples to lab experiments and data. The protocols will be shared with the community though the SCoOP website. Step 6 will focus on creating accessible outreach and informational materials. We have begun interacting with companies, the NC State Libraries, The NC State Science House, and staff to document and create informational materials and plan events to engage the community.


SCoOP Logic Model updated December 2022. SCoOP undergraduate researchers and mentors are working on projects connecting campus composting activities, waste management practices, and molecular biology techniques. Participants have worked with mentors and helped launch a Google Site for SCoOP (go.ncsu.edu/ncsuscoop) that will connect to a PubPub.org site that we are developing to post composting and sustainability-related articles and updates. Further, the SCoOP group has worked with undergraduate scholar Nidhi Grover to create open-access protocols on Protocols.io that can be accessed through our website. The SCoOP group is planning campus events and mentors are discussing external funding to continue and expand activities. Red scooper indicates short-term objectives we have met and the red icon of progress toward a goal (person stepping on increasingly taller bar graphs to reach flag) are in progress.

2022 SCoOP Mid-Project Report

Download our Mid-Cycle Report

Read our mid-cycle report (linked on the left).

SCoOP will continue to:

The educational component of this project will focus on addressing challenges facing wide-scale composting implementation, such as contamination and sorting, through developing communication tools to increase knowledge pertaining to composting. Students from a variety of majors, academic levels, and programs will work in interdisciplinary teams as part of the Campus as a Classroom (CAC) program, conducting original research and launching informational events to engage our campus community in critical discussions about the vital role of composting in NC State's sustainability efforts.

This project will directly support undergraduate researchers who will serve as scholars and ambassadors catalyzing new collaborations. Awareness of campus composting initiatives and discussions about how to increase food waste composting will inform and empower students as stakeholders to consider composting from interdisciplinary perspectives.

The impact of this project will be:


[1] Cui, E., Wu, Y., Jiao, Y., Zuo, Y., Rensing, C., & Chen, H. (2017). The behavior of antibiotic resistance genes and arsenic influenced by biochar during different manure composting. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 24(16), 14484-14490.

[2] Yin, Y., Yang, C., Li, M., Zheng, Y., Ge, C., Gu, J., ... & Chen, R. (2021). Research progress and prospects for using biochar to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions during composting: a review. Science of The Total Environment, 798, 149294.

SCoOP: Sustainable Composting and Outreach Program (SCoOP) logo. Shovel and text.