Monday, February 12, 2018

Still Composting After 25 years!

On a cold dark morning in January 1993 a new national trend began in solid waste management right here at Ithaca College. Food scraps from the kitchen and dish room at the Terrace Dining Hall became a nutrient rich soil amendment for flower and shrub beds on campus. This saved the College money, reduced the carbon footprint and made pretty flowers very happy.

It all started with a group of students who were committed to preserving the planet starting with taking out the trash. They began engaging the Administration in conversations about the environmental impact of solid waste. They collaborated with staff members in Facilities, called Physical Plant back in those days, to lead the College in establishing a comprehensive recycling program. With input and support from Faculty, these students convinced the Administration to implement a recycling collection system in all College buildings. 

Landfills across the country were filling up and communities were fighting the opening of new landfills, including the one in Tompkins County. In order to meet the costs of siting a new landfill and closing the old one, Tompkins County initiated a “tipping fee”, money paid by anyone bringing garbage to the landfill. Never before had the College had to pay to throw away its trash, about 1750 tons per year. Student environmental activists on campus had been successfully advocating for recycling for several years as a way to reduce the waste going to landfills and conserve natural resources. The anticipated new annual cost of about $250,000 to take out the trash created the incentive for the College to invest in recycling and to look at other ways to reduce the cost of waste disposal. Since about a ton a day of the trash was food scrap, there was a financial incentive to start composting.

A researcher from Cornell University agreed to design, help build and teach us to operate an Aerated Static Pile (ASP) compost facility in a converted storage building. Equipment was purchased to mix and pile food scraps with wood chips inside the building where air was blown into the piles using electric fans. This process produced humus, the organic component of soil, in just six weeks; food scraps into dirt. It was a steep learning curve but, we were able to compost all the food scraps from all the dining halls on campus, and we still do. In 2000, we built a new facility for composting. In 2007, we started sending food scraps to Cayuga Compost, a more sustainable option than doing it on campus.

In the twenty-five years we have been composting food scraps, we have composted about 12,000,000 pounds of food scrap, roughly 98% of all the food scrap generated on campus. That is equal to 11,750 tons of CO2e we did NOT release into the atmosphere.

Most of us never see this happening. Just like most of the food preparation, food scraps from meal preparation, pre-consumer, and food left on diners plates are collected “behind the scenes” in the kitchens and dish rooms at all of our dining halls.
 This is one way we contribute to the social, economic and environmental well-being of our community.  It is what we do every day to enhance the Quality of Life for our community and out planet.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Fighting Hunger


The second of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is “Zero Hunger” and it is of particular interest to us. In this land of plenty, it would seem that everyone gets enough to eat but, that isn’t so. Even here in the Ithaca Bubble, that ten square miles surrounded by reality, there are people without enough to eat:

5 facts about hunger in Tompkins County*
1) 13,280 people do not have regular access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
2) 3,040 of those without regular access to enough food are children.
3) 28 % of K-12 students are eligible for the free lunch program
4) ~6000 residents have both low income and low access to a grocery store.
5) The Food Bank of the Southern Tier distributes about 1 million pounds of food in Tompkins County.

We work with students in SWIFT (Stop Wasting Ithaca’s Food Today) and the Friendship Donation Network (FDN) to donate food to the Ithaca Rescue Mission. Last year over 7,000 pounds of leftovers fed hungry people in Ithaca. You can volunteer with FDN, they can use your help in picking up food by joining one of their teams that pick up surplus, edible food every day and make sure it goes to someone who is hungry.

 Another way to fight hunger is to donate money to programs that help people have enough to eat. Ithaca Dining Services kicks off our annual campaign to raise money for the Food Bank of the Sothern Tier’s BackPack program. Many children who receive free and reduced priced school meals go without the nutrition they need on weekends and holiday breaks when school is not in session. Donating $3 will provide one of these children who are at risk of hunger with a bag of nutritious food each Friday throughout the school year.

*http://hotpotatopress.org/2015/05/12/5-facts-about-hunger-in-tompkins-county/

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

We Are Still Committed to Sustainability.

To say that Sustainability has evolved is an understatement. The Decade of Sustainability in Higher Education began in 2005 bringing the term, idea, concept of Sustainability to Ithaca College through the efforts of Administration, Faculty, Staff and Students. Sodexo has been a willing partner in this evolution and has taken that experience and knowledge gained and connected it to its mission of enhancing the Quality of Life and contributing to the social, economic and environmental well-being of the communities that we serve. The Better Tomorrow 2025 Plan reflects the up-to-date needs of our clients, customers, employees and the world around us. Better Tomorrow 2025 was developed in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) created by the United Nations in 2015. Our efforts are aligned with those of the 193 countries that signed on to those goals.
The SDGs set global goals in 17 areas that governments, businesses and society at large need to act on to achieve a more sustainable, fair and equal world by 2030.

We are particularly interested in fighting hunger, reducing waste and gender equality.
Ithaca Dining Services continues its commitment to Sustainability by being responsible users of our resources so that others in the future can enjoy the same quality of life we do. We continue to do the work, every day that needs to be done to make the lasting and meaningful incremental changes that will have an impact on our planet, our people, our health and wellness and our communities. The simple actions we do routinely to efficiently and effectively prepare and serve delicious, healthy meals is an indicator of our commitment to Sustainability.
The choices we make as individual members of the community also have an impact such as; choosing a reusable coffee mug or water bottle, taking the bus to work instead of driving alone, making sure to recycle and compost are all ways we can reduce our carbon footprint. When we make these choices for ourselves, we are also setting an example for those around us.

We are fortunate that the foundation of Sodexo’s commitment to Sustainability is our people, people with rich backgrounds and diverse perspectives. We must continue to make every effort to make decisions that mindfully balance the needs of people, the community and the planet today and for future generations. What we do today means a better tomorrow.