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Honda Motorwerks gives La Crosse worm composting project an electric compost cruiser

Honda Motorwerks gives La Crosse worm composting project an electric compost cruiser

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It may have the nicknames “compost cruiser” and “worm wagon,” but a donated electric vehicle will help a La Crosse vermicomposting project keep moving.

Honda Motorwerks donated a Columbia Summit SMT-4 neighborhood electric vehicle valued at about $6,000 Tuesday to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Foundation for use transporting food waste from around the city to the Ferry Street vermicomposting center. The program, which is a partnership between Hillview Urban Agriculture Center, UW-L and Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare, uses worms to digest tons of food scraps into organic compost each year.

Andrea Schaefer, vermicomposting coordinator for Hillview, said having the vehicle, dubbed the “Worm Mobile,” would open up new opportunities for the program. In the past, UW-L student interns working with the program had to provide their own vehicles; now the center has a dedicated piece of equipment to transport materials and spread the word about the program.

She also said it’s great the vehicle runs on battery power. Electric vehicles require less maintenance since they don’t have an internal combustion engine and also have fewer moving parts that can break.

“This makes everything one step easier for us,” she said. “Plus it is really cute.”

Chris Schneider, president of Honda Motorwerks and advanced fuel vehicles expert, was excited to be a part of the donation on Tuesday. He said he was proud the company was investing in a local organic project and contributing to a program that reduces food waste and promotes sustainability.

“I am excited to be involved in a project like this,” he said. “I like the fact that it is using local resources (food scraps) in this manner.”

Since the vermicomposter was purchased in 2010, more than 47,000 pounds of food waste have been diverted from the landfill while creating about 10,000 pounds of worm castings, a sustainable and nutrient-dense fertilizer. The fertilizer is available for sale as VermiGold around the area and is donated to community gardens, school gardens and other nonprofit growing places.

More than 5,000 pounds of food waste have been diverted from UW-L, Mayo, Western Technical College and other local businesses so far this year, Schaefer said. Having the electric vehicle will be a big help in continuing to increase the productivity of the vermicomposter.

“This is a great day for this partnership,” UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow said. “We look forward to many more collaborations.”

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Nathan Hansen has been the Education Reporter for the Tribune since 2014. Prior to that, he covered education, agriculture and business topics for the Winona Daily News. He is always on the lookout for news tips and can be contacted at 608-791-8234.

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