Food scraps now diverted at Dana Hall

If you’ve noticed two, side-by-side trash cans during lunch in the Dining Hall, separating garbage from food waste, then you’ve witnessed the new food diversion program that is the latest step in Dana Hall’s commitment to sustainability. The program that composts the dining center’s food waste started out as a proposal by The Sustainability Committee (made up of parents, faculty, students, and members of the advancement team) so that Dana Hall could reduce its food waste as well as shed light on food security, environmental justice, and the school’s growing carbon footprint. 

The Green Action Committee (GAC), formerly known as the Green Team, measured the amount and type of waste that came out of the Dining Hall and calculated that every day, about 150 pounds of food and trash are thrown away in our Dining Hall alone. The committee then created objectives that the food diversion program has acted on such as replacing paper cups, tea bags, and garbage bag liners with compostable versions. Most notably, they’ve created bins that separate food waste from other trash. Once the food scraps are accumulated, a service collects all viable waste in designated containers once or twice per week (or more often when it is necessary). Eventually, the wasted food is sent to the Wellesley Recycling and Disposal Facility, where organic material gets broken down through anaerobic digestion (that is, without the presence of oxygen) inside a sealed tank. 

The ultimate goal of the food diversion program is to reduce food waste, and the cause has been supported by student demand, growing trends in neighboring schools, various options for vendors of food services, and the urgent problem of climate change that has sparked global environmental awareness. 

As for the effects this program could have on our community, Ms. Mary Frances Hanover, the school’s new sustainability coordinator, hopes “this program teaches us that we need to be conscious of the food we’re eating, but more importantly not eating.” “We’re so very lucky that very few of us have experienced food insecurity, and because we haven’t, I don’t think we have appreciation sometimes for food,” she adds. In addition to the understanding Ms. Hanover anticipates the program will bring, she mentions she also “hope[s] it sparks people to think ‘how can we reduce our food waste here or can this be composted? Or maybe we don’t buy this food size container, maybe we go smaller. I hope it inspires people to do something on their own–something in their houses. Because one of the things we want to emphasize with the Green Action Committee is there’s a lot of power in one person.” 

Beyond impacting our community at Dana, according to Ms. Hanover, this stride could be a step in avoiding this food spending up to a hundred years in a landfill where it takes up space and creates greenhouse gasses as it decomposes. As Ms. Hanover explains, “the footprint of the program is huge in terms of landfills and greenhouse gasses.”

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