Lethbridge College has recycling bins easily available throughout all of their buildings for paper and recyclable drinking containers. The Lethbridge College Student Association collects the bottles and cans recycled across campus and offers a battery drop off area for students to utilize. However their culinary department has been moving towards more extreme methods of waste reduction over the past five years. Chef Doug Overes agreed to speak on the departments behalf to illustrate the ways in which they are reducing their ecological impact. They are currently keeping track of the amounts of materials which they divert from the landfill each week. Each week they recycle 6.8kg of glass, 13.6kg of paper, 9.1kg of food-grade plastic, 4.5kg of tin, 22.7kg of cardboard, and 45.5kg of compostable material. All of these materials are sorted into their respective bins located behind the building which are emptied after every school year (Image 1 and 2). There is also a container for used cooking oil and grease which can be recycled as a source of biofuel. Their main waste source comes from non-food grade plastics, while 2% to 5% is food waste. Most of their food waste can be composted such as their biodegradable garbage bags, plates, and to-go containers used in the cafeteria.
Although recycling is extremely important to Chef Doug Overes, he also focuses on reducing and reusing products where possible. The idea of buying in bulk to reduce packaging is part of being an informed consumer. Along with buying environmentally friendly cleaning products which are non-toxic. The main cleaning supplies used in the culinary department are food grade quality and therefore contain no harmful chemicals. Other companies and individuals could follow Lethbridge College’s example and recycle and compost in a similar fashion. By becoming an informed shopper and choosing products with a lower environmental impact, consumers could support greener companies and inspire change. Glass containers are reusable, longer lasting then the plastic alternative, and easier to recycle then ones made of metal. With increased education, consumers can be informed of alternate options such as canning and buying containers with an extended life span.
The culinary department is also making use of a small urban cultivator to grow their microgreens during the off season (Image 3). Instead of having to ship these food items in from other countries, they are utilizing a regulated indoor garden to provide these resources. Over time, this will cut down on costs as certain produce is continuously available, despite the high initial costs.
Written and photographed by Kristen Hancsicak