SPOKANE, Wash. – Mealtime is greener than ever for Gonzaga University students this fall, thanks to a new campus partnership for sustainability that turns dining hall food scraps into nutrient-rich compost for healthy gardens.
The new initiative partners Gonzaga, Sodexo, Barr-Tech and Waste Management to dramatically reduce the amount of waste generated in on-campus restaurants, and then repurpose it as garden compost. By tossing food scraps and food-soiled papers into a separate Waste Management bin, Gonzaga students and staff are diverting about 80 percent of dining hall waste.
In the past, leftover food from campus kitchens went to the local waste-to-energy plant. Now Waste Management collects the food for delivery to the local Barr-Tech Compost Facility, where the food is composted and turned into a nutrient-rich soil amendment.
Key to the program’s early success is the hands-on outreach and education, which happens in the main kitchen on campus. Waste Management compost and recycling experts have collaborated with Sodexo to set up bins and signage, and to provide training and coaching.
“For universities, grocery stores, event centers and many restaurants, diverting food waste for composting is the next big sustainability opportunity,” said Marco Gonzales of Waste Management. “With a well-designed program and good training for employees, many of our customers are reducing their waste significantly while converting organic material into a valuable product.”
At Gonzaga, food composting completes a “circle of sustainability” that the University initiated years ago.
“Although we have been recycling for years, everything from cardboard to frying oil for use in biodiesel fuel, composting is important because it brings our overall effort full circle,” said Chuck Faulkinberry, Resident District Manager for Sodexo Campus Services at Gonzaga. “We have always taken a creative and uniquely local approach to sustainability, buying local dairy products and produce and supporting Eastern Washington farmers who practice sustainable farming by incorporating their flour in our deli bread. Now what’s left over is going back to the earth, and that’s exciting.”
Faulkinberry also said students will become involved in sorting the food scraps and will have the opportunity to go on fieldtrips to the composting facility.
This composting program is consistent with the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment signed recently by Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh. Reflecting Gonzaga’s dedication to environmental stewardship as part of its Jesuit identity, both of these initiatives are making a difference.
For more information, please contact Chuck Faulkinberry at (509) 313-6906 or via e-mail.