Marist College has developed a composting program in its dining operations.
Steve Sansola, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, Marist College
(supervises campus dining services)
Composting project website: http://www.maristdining.com/sustainability/local.html
Marist College, 3399 North Road, Poughkeepsie, New York 12601
Independent comprehensive private liberal arts college in New York State with an enrollment over 4,500 traditional undergraduate students
College website: http://www.marist.edu
A 2001 reorganization within the Division of Student Affairs led to the dining services operation (contracted through Sodexo) report to the Associate Dean of Student Affairs. After prioritizing a number of dining service issues and keeping with the best practices in waste minimization, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions reduction, the Dean, working closely with the College’s Campus Sustainability Advisory Committee (appointed by the college president in 2007) identified the diversion of food waste from the garbage waste stream as a prime area for improvement and cost savings.
This college’s success to maintaining minimal food waste was attributed to a series of initiatives that included portion control, composting and utilization of the food waste management production system Lean Path and education outreach.
In 2007 Marist College embarked on a program to initiate sustainable practices in its food service program in partnership with Sodexo, the college’s food service contractor. Marist Dining Services began composting all food waste through a partnership with Greenway, a local program for composting and Royal Carting, a local hauler. The compost program collects waste from both kitchen production and the Main Dining Hall. At the end of the fall 2007 semester 86,400 pounds of food was composted. Since the program began, collection of food scraps has grown to include “back of the house” food production and food scraps from catering services. At the end of the fall 2012 semester the amount of composted food was 87,745 pounds. Since the initiative’s beginning, the number of pounds collected for composting increased by 1,345 pounds or 1.6%, while the number of participants in dining plans increased by 8%.
In 2009, dining services utilized the Lean Path Waste Management System, designed to minimize food waste in production to drive change, to spot opportunities and significantly minimize the amount of food waste generated in kitchen production. The college made a one-time contribution towards the purchase of the Lean Path System with Sodexo paying for all program and maintenance fees for the equipment.
The combined goals of these initiatives were to reduce food waste and hauling fees. Implementation of the program was easily enacted as the contracted hauler also provided the composting service. Costs for this program were covered through Sodexo as they are contractually responsible for the removal of food waste. Savings generated from this program was used to augment other sustainable initiatives in the food service operation.
The proper training of food service staff using the Lean Path System in order to reduce food waste has been critical to the program’s success. Three principle food service managers, the Executive Chef, the Resident Dining Manager and the Catering Manager play an important role in this effort. Food cost savings generated from less food waste goes directly towards food purchases (including local and regional food sources) as the dining plan participation has grown.
In summer 2013 the college will undergo a dining hall renovation and will eliminate composting fees through pulping and grey water processes. This initiative will eliminate the need for trucks to drive to campus to pick up food waste for composting, thus reducing further carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
This effort is just one of many underway at the college. Initiatives include a comprehensive employee training on sustainable practices, the use of organic/Fair Trade coffee, the reusable mug program and the purchase of a hydraulic compressor for cans and plastic to increase capacity for collection of recyclables. The college has already eliminated plastic packaging of meals and uses compostable, corn-based “to go” containers. Certified green-cleaning products are exclusively used. Marist made a staunch commitment to purchase local and regional food and non-food items within a 150-mile radius for its dining services. This allows campus dining locations to showcase local, regional, sustainable and organic foods. In addition, seafood purchases are in accordance with sustainable guidelines as set forth through the Marine Stewardship Council.
In 2009, the Marist campus went “trayless.” Trayless dining can reduce food waste by as much as 30 percent. Less waste also means less water, energy and chemical detergents required in the cleaning process. More importantly, it means that there will be significantly less food decaying in landfills, producing methane, a greenhouse gas, which is at least 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Sodexo staff also maintains a shutdown policy to reduce overhead lighting and the use of kitchen exhaust fans when certain dining seating areas or kitchen equipment is not in use. This procedure has helped to reduce electrical demand. Sodexo also created a part- time student sustainability coordinator position for a Marist student to help promote the sustainability pro- gram and related activities. In 2011, Marist Dining Services was named “Organics Reduction” Champions of the EPA’s Game Day Challenge.
Information to the college community about these efforts is presented through the Dining Service website, educational display boards, the Campus Sustainability Advisory Committee, Dining Advisory Committee, the Student Government Association as well as tabling at various campus events such as the annual Campus Sustainability Day.