During Earth Week 2008, Darden’s Dean Bob Bruner announced the School’s ambitious goal to be zero waste, carbon neutral by 2020. This summer, the American Society for Quality featured our progress to date on page 5 of their annual publication, Pathways to Social Responsibility: Successful Practices for Sustaining the Future 2012. A few small but hard-won and satisfying accomplishments to share:
Darden has reduced its waste to landfill by 10% relative to our FY07 baseline. How?
In early 2012 Darden began composting kitchen food waste with partner Black Bear Composting. We have now diverted over 50 tons of kitchen prep organic waste and coffee grounds (we drink a LOT of coffee here!).
2. Recycling and Use of Material Recovery Facility
Waste not composted has two chances at being recycled before heading to the landfill:
U.Va.’s robust recycling program, which accepts e-waste, glass, metal, and plastics #1-7 (including plastic bags, straws and utensils).
Waste not separated into recycling bins goes first to a material recovery facility (MRF), where additional recyclables are removed, before the remainder is sent to the landfill. Here’s a video showing how a MRF works.
We have reduced our carbon emissions by 5% relative to our baseline. How?
Conservation and energy efficiency are two levers available to us. We educate our community on how to save energy. And with our partner Automated Logic we have recommissioned our building systems to make them more efficient. While reducing our carbon footprint, we have also avoided $102K (12% savings) in annual energy costs. We’re happy to put that money toward scholarships and curriculum instead!
We still have a long way to go of course. Achieving our waste goals will require continued behavior change, as well as perhaps a waste-to-energy process. To achieve our carbon neutral aspiration will necessitate purchasing renewable energy or producing it on-site. We continue to evaluate new opportunities and innovative renewable energy companies. We also track our utility’s renewable energy progress, given that the majority of our carbon footprint is based on the electricity we purchase from Dominion.
Collaboration Enables Progress
Darden collaborates with community partners to further our progress. We simply can’t achieve our zero waste, carbon neutral goal without doing so.
Our long-time Facilities Administator, Keith Crawford, AICP LEED AP, is a founder of the Central Virginia chapter of the Clean Economy Network.
We are an active member of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)and hosted ACORE’s Sustainable Ways to Community Prosperity conference here last March.
Darden was one of several organizers of the inaugural Charlottesville Area Better Business Challenge, a competition among over 100 local area businesses to reduce their waste, water and energy footprint. The Challenge culminated in an Awards Night at Charlottesville’s historic Paramount Theatre, celebrating the accomplishments of participants, 96% of whom said that sustainability practices are now more achievable for their businesses! Darden learned a lot too.
Share with us your company’s progress.