Search This Blog

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sustainability's Reality Check

Sustainability at W&M LogoThe College of William & Mary took their 2008 D- grade by the Sustainable Endowments Institute as a reality check and catalyst for action.  Understanding student involvement was critical to effective and innovative success, the college developed a paid sustainability internship program with five positions.  Initially, the focus was on water|energy conservation and product purchases made of recycled content.

As they began exploring sustainable opportunities on campus, the interns realized the campus dining service operations were a perfect starting point.  The first step was eliminating plastic trays in the dining halls. Reduction from decreased use of the commercial dish washing units saved 135,000 gallons of water along with time & energy.

organics collection in action @
William & Mary
While researching recycled paper content products, the interns learned compostable product use would change the entire disposal paradigm in the three campus cafeterias.  The college contracted with a local composting operation for collection and trained kitchen staff to source-separate the compostable products and organics into designated bins, .  On average, the dining operations divert 3 tons per week of organic material from prior landfill destination to McGill Environmental Systems for organics manufacturing into valuable compost.  

Compost: the valuable end product
Among the many benefits of participating in an organics collection program, W&M found two immediate added-values:
  1. Cost-savings - with approximately 40% of the campus dining service "waste" collected for compost or recycling, W&M realized a reduction in their waste hauling expenses.
  2. On-campus garden - the campus purchases compost made from their food residuals and compostable foodservice packaging for their student maintained garden.  The campus has the ultimate in locally grown food with their garden right on campus.
W&M hit an amazing sustainable stride in their dining operations and increased their SEI grade to a B+ in three years.  MeadWestvacoa manufacturer of compostable and recyclable food service packaging, honored W&M's accomplishments with an excellent video, College Aces Composting 101, and an article, How the College of William & Mary made its Dining Services GreenToGo.

Industry suppliers like MWV are valuable partners for campuses, whether college or corporate, as they explore incorporating zero waste practices into their daily operations.  Along with product expertise, MWV shares their broad range of experience working with operators on implementing organics collection programs.  MWV's GreenToGo site content serves as a resource for WHY sending organics to composting operations is important along with examples of successful programs.

With strong educational tools and industry support, zero waste practices are easy and many times result in cost-savings.  See the ZWZ Blog post, A Common ZWZ Refrain:  It's Easy, for Zero Waste Zones Participant testimonials on the ease of including organics collection in their operations.

It is inspiring to learn of tales from the zero waste journey - the College of William & Mary is a prominent example of how sustainable practices benefit the environment and the college's profit|loss statement bottom line.

No comments:

Post a Comment