NAU's Food Recovery Program: Gateway to a Zero-Waste Campus
Competition in the kitchen usually
involves cooking prowess, but “back of house” staff at Northern Arizona
University (NAU) are trying to outdo one another in a much different category:
reducing food waste.
The daily quest takes on a higher
level of significance now that NAU has signed on to participate in the EPA
Food Recovery Challenge. This self-reporting program requires
participants to measure and then set goals to reduce food waste. “Achieving zero waste on campus is
one of the most sought-after goals of campus sustainability,” said Campus
Sustainability Manager Bryan McLaren, citing
the university’s climate action plan.
According to McLaren, zero waste is a goal
toward which the university continues to make meaningful progress. Signing up
for the EPA program was just one more way to demonstrate NAU’s commitment. “NAU
is ahead of the game,” McLaren said. “While other universities are asking basic
questions about preconsumer food composting, we’ve just reached 150,000 pounds
at our compost facility.” Much of the material that goes into
compost would otherwise end up at a landfill. Instead, the compost can be used
on campus and in the community while reducing waste and CO2 emissions.
About 1,000 pounds of compost can be
generated each day at the Hot Spot, one of two major dining halls on the NAU
campus. Food waste comes from
overproduction, spoilage, expiration, and trimmings. And the trimmings can pile
up. Cucumber ends, onion peels, broccoli
stalks and other trimmings that result from meal preparation are weighed and
tracked using equipment and software from LeanPath, a company that works with the food
industry to reduce waste. Some of the
vegetable trimming are boiled and filtered to go into pho, a Vietnamese soup, and the stock is also used for stir-fry
dishes and fried rice. This amounts to more than 157 pounds of vegetable
trimmings being used first and then composted.
To keep track of these types of
savings, McLaren is aggregating numbers from LeanPath and other sources on
campus to report NAU’s progress through EPA’s online Waste Wise tool. “As a
starting point I think we can get close to 15 percent” of food waste being diverted
from landfills, he said, pointing out that, with recycling, NAU could reach a much
higher percentage toward its ultimate goal. “Food recovery is our gateway to a
zero-waste campus,” he said.
--Adapted from an article appearing
in NAU News