Chef Gary and Sustainability….Tips for 0 Waste

Back in June, I attended the Klingenstein Summer Institute at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. Not only was the Institute the pentultimate professional learning experience for education, it also was an enlightening one with regards to sustainability.

Chef Gary, the head Chef at the Lawrenceville School (follow him @sustainablefare ) has made huge steps towards a more sustainable food service.  Below are some photos of what he’s done, with prompts for ways we might use and promote these concepts of sustainability at other schools, in our homes, and in our communities:

How can we educate our children about the benefits of local, organic, unwrapped food? At least let us know what we’re eating, so that we can make responsible choices. 

Got Milk? Instead of  single-use carton, why not use a glass with milk from a bigger machine? Less waste. All drinks in Gary’s lunchroom come from machines like this one. Not one carton!

Allow diners to bus their own plates. This leaves time for staff to do more cooking/preparation! And helps us be mindful of the waste we toss! Looking into the food dump, I get a really good sense of just how much my community throws away each meal.

What do we do with food scraps at our school? Why not compost them? Below is Chef Gary with the first of his three composting systems. This one only uses organic food scraps from the kitchen, and the compost from this is used to fertilize Lawrenceville’s extensive lawns in an organic way!

Worms Below! Vermiculture is second type of composting done through Lawrenceville’s kitchens. This is also an easy type of composting to do at home. Did you know that food scraps sent to landfills create really harmful methane gas? The more food you can keep out of the garbage, the better for the landfill and the better for your health! This might be the only time it’s good to have worms.

Below is the third and final composting system that Chef Gary uses at Lawrenceville. This system can turn all sorts of food — even meats and bones which normally are not easily composted– into compost in just 12 hours. While the system below uses some water and some energy, it reduces the amount of food waste that the school produces almost to nothing because every bite not eaten by diners goes into this composting system: throw in the t-bone baby!

See all this cardboard? Instead of being wasted, or even sent away to be recycled, Gary’s team shreds the cardboard and adds it to the food scraps in the bigger bin in order to help create the compost. Gary is not just focused on reducing the school’s output of waste. He is also committed to reducing the incoming packaging waste. Eat Unwrapped–or at least compost your cardboard!

This bad boy helps rotate the food scraps and the cardboard. (Remember the first blue bin compost system from above? This is what it is attached to).

And from the big rotator comes….. Voila! Rich compost! Paid for in the school’s lunch budget. One man’s trash is a gardener’s treasure!

So what, you say? Well let’s go dumpster diving. Before Gary started his sustainability kick, the school would PAY someone to haul away a HUGE trash bin 2x a week. Now, with the changes he has implemented, the lunch trash bin looks like this (you can see the stains from where the other big bin used to be):

One bin. ONE BIN! What does your school’s lunch room trash bin look like? I bet it’s not this small.

The benefits of moving towards a 0 waste system:

1) Save money on trash pick up and disposal

2) Use the money you save to further enhance your composting system

3) Food waste kept out of landfills which reduces toxic gases emitted

4) Less road time for trash trucks so less carbon monoxide emitted on their drives from the school to the dump

5) Gary buys lots of his produce from local farmers, thereby reducing packaging waste, reducing transportation costs (both monetary and environmental), and supporting the local economy. His produce is also more fresh, and often organic.

6) Free compost for fertilizing the grounds

7) Allowing students to serve themselves through the lunch line, Gary also reduces waste because students take what they can eat, instead of throwing away gigantic portions they have been served.

8) Allowing students to bus their own plates provides more kitchen time for staff to do the cooking. No more pre-sliced apples or pre-cooked-rip-open-the-package-and-heat-it chicken, thank-you-very-much!

9) Students are becoming involved in the organic garden that Gary has both on grounds and another just a few blocks away. Isn’t it important to know where our food comes from?

For more information about sustainable eating and schools, follow Gary on twitter and check out the Slow Food Movement. Support your local farmers and buy organic. EAT the mantra: Local, Organic, Unwrapped.

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2 Responses to Chef Gary and Sustainability….Tips for 0 Waste

  1. Bo Adams says:

    Great post! Wish we would take this on as integrated studies PBL!

  2. Betsy says:

    This is awesome, P! Did he talk about the winter vs. spring/fall for getting local produce?

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