Composting is one of the easiest and most beneficial things you can do as an individual to reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment, according to Global Stewards.
For large-scale organizations, composting can be a bit more challenging. However, it's even more important for them to address due to the sheer volume of food waste involved. In our continuing quest to minimize our environmental impact and use resources efficiently, we've restarted our composting program at Macy's Cincinnati corporate offices. It’s off to a strong start, according to downtown building services manager Sue Temple. “We had a composting program in the past, but it has not been available to us for about a year and a half. Up until now, we haven’t been able to locate a viable partner to replace it,” said Sue. “Once we got this new program up and running, people picked up right where they left off, and we diverted 1,150 pounds of food waste in the first month alone.”
The new composting program kicked off in June after Sue was introduced to David Andre at GoZero Food Waste Compost Courier Services. The original plan was to set up a composting program at the Progress Place corporate office location, but it quickly became apparent that the downtown site would also be a great place to pilot the program. Sue and David toured the spaces together, and then the GoZero team developed a plan.
At our Cincinnati corporate office, there are food waste collection bins in the primary areas where food waste is generated: kitchen prep areas, the cafeteria and the brown bag room for colleagues. Each bin is lined with a compostable liner to collect waste for pickup. Signs posted near the bins include details about what can be composted and reminders are placed on dining tables, encouraging colleagues to participate. “We already had regular dishes and silverware, so people are used to sorting and clearing off their trays. This is the logical next step. Instead of tossing food waste into the trash where it ends up in a landfill, we’re now diverting food waste into a useful material,” said Sue. And here’s something you might not know: While you can’t recycle paper towels, you can compost them.
Beyond the cafeteria and brown bag rooms, there also are smaller “collections” in each break room on two pilot site floors. “That helps,” said Sue. “People who bring their lunch and eat at their desks might not always have time to walk all the way to the cafeteria to compost, so this makes it easier for them.” And our colleagues are using them. “We might get to the point where we have them in all break rooms,” said Sue.
Colleague response “has been tremendous,” according to Sue. “People are willing to champion it; to collect the compost from their areas. They understand the value. They’re inspired to do it and to spread the word. I’m a little surprised by the passion we’re seeing for the composting program.”
Composting on this scale is a relatively new practice, and it’s not available in many areas across the United States at this point, so additional Macy’s implementations will be on a site-by-site basis, based on availability and feasibility.
According to Earthtimes.org, it’s simply the process of turning organic matter that’s ready for disposal into something beneficial. Organic materials, such as vegetable matter, eggshells, coffee grounds and tea bags, are placed in a suitable container or pile to decompose. Over time, they break down into a rich form of soil that is full of nutrients to do amazing things for your garden. “It’s very nutrient-rich; it revives plants. Using compost can extend the life of your garden and even boost production. I’ve seen another six weeks of tomato production, beyond everyone else’s season, on gardens that use compost,” Sue said.
The benefits of composting include:
Composting is not only good for the environment – it’s also cost-advantageous. “The more we can compost, the less we spend on trash pickup and disposal. We saw a substantial drop in our trash pickup costs with the previous program, and we’re tracking that with the new program, as well,” said Sue. “The more volume we get, the more cost-beneficial it will be.”
Sue pointed out another benefit to the composting program she’s noticed, “I think more about composting at home, too, because I’m thinking about it at work. I’m hoping that will be the case for other people as well – that more of us stop and ask the question ‘What’s going to happen to this if I throw it away? Is there something else I can do with it?’” Then, with a smile, Sue said, “I hope it inspires people to compost at home. It has such great benefits.”