Georgetown celebrates Earth, announces the second coming of compost
Georgetown’s celebration of Earth Day 2015 on Wednesday, April 22 marked an advance by students and the university in taking action to reduce waste.
In a press release dated March 23, Georgetown Dining and the Office of Sustainability announced a new composting program that will keep all kitchen waste and 25 percent of post-consumer waste from Leo O’Donovan Dining Hall and Epicurean out of landfills.
The move comes after a much-advertised composting initiative in 2012 that failed to materialize. On September 6, 2012, the Voice reported University Recycling Manager William Del Vecchio denying the truth of the statement on the Georgetown Dining website that “90 percent of all waste from Leo’s Dining Hall is composted.” Though 25 Magis Row townhouses composted their waste for a garden, “The Voice was repeatedly rebuked by contacts at Georgetown Dining when reporters asked for elaboration on composting practices, and was not given permission to enter the kitchen to observe the composting process.”
According to Georgetown Dining manager Adam Solloway, Leo’s workers are making adjustments to process the waste correctly.
“Employees and kitchen staff have gone through extensive training to accommodate the new composting system and maintain the success of this program by separating food waste and paper into designated composting bins lined with compostable bags,” Solloway wrote in an email to the Voice. “The materials composted include produce and meat scraps, egg shells, coffee filters, dairy products, bones and paper towels from kitchen prep stations and waste left on the dish carousel.”
Office of Sustainability student interns Mandy Lee (SFS ‘17), Monica Mahal (COL ‘17) and Danielle Huang (COL ‘17) helped secure an agreement with Maryland Environmental Services, which will turn around 300 annual tons of waste into high-quality fertilizer in Millersville, Md. Solloway assures students that “our teams have gone through extensive site inspections and meetings to ensure we meet their requirements.” According to the press release, both the White House lawn and State Department gardens use the fertilizer, called “LeafGro.”
Georgetown Dining, which serves 5,000 students daily, has taken other initiatives over the past year to reduce non-organic waste. One hundred percent of used fryer oil is recycled, and the six recently installed water fountains have saved 350,000 bottles from being used.
The Office of Sustainability has held programs throughout April, designated as Earth Month. Recently, student representatives gave out free reusable water bottles for the past two weeks, including Wednesday at the Green Square Fair. At the Fair, environment-related groups from the Georgetown Environmental Leaders tabled in Red Square next to the Farmers’ Market. “Green Square Fair is organized by the Center for the Environment, and there are giveaways, fundraisers, games, educational info, and pledges,” she wrote.
A bike-sharing program is also in the works, according to Sustainability Intern Patrick Drown (SFS ‘17). “The office has received 10 bikes donated by Coca-Cola to roll out for a pilot biking program this coming fall in which students can rent bikes on a semester basis,” Drown wrote in an email to the Voice.
To finish off Earth Day, the Center for the Environment sponsored a keynote by marine conservation biologist Richard Steiner entitled “Last Chance to Save Imperiled Arctic.” Steiner’s presentation included over 300 professional photos of the Arctic, according to the Center for the Environment website. Organized around three themes—place, threats, and solutions, the session concluded with question and answer session and informative discussion about the future of conservation policy decisions.
Despite Earth month coming to an end, Georgetown Dining continues to suggest further action to improve sustainability. “Georgetown University and campus partners are excited to continue its commitment to environmentally friendly practices with its newest addition of food waste composting,” Georgetown Dining announced in a press release. “Composting provides a sustainable way to manage biodegradable waste, and has great potential of expanding to incorporate more partners across campus.”
Photo: Shira Saperstein/The Georgetown Voice