Albany, N.Y. -- It was two years ago when Dylan Card, now president of UAlbany Students for Sustainability, thought, “it’s about time we responsibly get rid of the food waste from the dining halls on campus.”
In January 2013 Dylan got his wish: The University at Albany began a pilot program with Empire Zero, to divert their food waste from the landfill. The pilot began with just one of the campus’ residential dining halls, Indian Quad. Indian Quad has diverted more than 119 tons of food from the waste stream, composting over 14,000 pounds of food since the program's inception. Following this success, University Auxiliary Services (UAS) embarked on an expansion of the program. Starting last month the dining hall at State Quad began composting.
Organizing a composting operation at an institution as large as UAlbany involved a joint effort between staff, students, and faculty. A key to the success of the program was the training provided by Empire Zero. As a new firm based in the Capital Region, Empire Zero is able to work with all of its composting partners to tailor a unique composting plan that works for each individual institution.
UAlbany has experimented with vermicomposting, including hosting an office composting challenge organized by the Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES) during the nationwide RecycleMania tournament. In this program, offices are given small buckets to collect organic scraps, and a volunteer empties the containers into the vermicomposting bins.
Composting isn't the only measure UAlbany is taking to reduce their organic waste output. Sodexo, the University’s food service provider, began using LeanPath, a software technology used to track food waste generated by kitchens in residential dining halls in February 2014. The program challenges the staff to weigh all waste -- from overproduction, spoilage and trimmings -- each day in order to measure and observe trends in the types of waste being produced. Daily participation and an assessment of weekly results will enable the dining team to implement less wasteful culinary practices and run a more environmentally and financially sustainable food operation.
Empire Zero began its mission to “redefine waste” back in 2012. Phil and Tyler Holloway founded the company when they noticed the need for an organic waste recycling service in the Capital Region. Since then, Empire Zero has developed both institutional and resident composting programs, partnering with hospitals, universities, and restaurants to divert more than 500 tons of compostable materials from landfills. The compost service accepts all food scraps; including meat, dairy, bones, soiled paper products, and greasy cardboard.