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Sodexo sustainability conference encourages student culture change

June 20, 2012 at 11:01 am
By Allison Tinsey,News Editor

Over the course of two days spent in St. Louis, Missouri, Susan Matheson, General Manager for Sodexo at Kalamazoo College and I attended a conference pertaining to Sodexo’s commitment to a better tomorrow through a variety of sustainability practices. The main topics of discussion included waste reduction and how to implement practices so as to guide the mentalities of the food service provider, staff, and students toward the same goals.

The first day was spent on a “Learning Journey” to see the process food waste goes through after it is scraped off a plate. Starting at the Energizer Headquarters in St. Louis, we were shown how food waste is collected in their Sodexo kitchen to be composted by St. Louis Composting. Later, the group visited the Missouri Botanical Gardens to see how they are using the compost in their plant beds. This full-circle tour ended in a discussion of other sustainable practices that the Garden has implemented, such as rainwater collection for irrigation.


[Susan Matheson, General Manager for Sodexo]

Day Two hosted the group of Sodexo managers, employees, and clients at Webster University.  Senior Director for Sustainability at Sodexo Holly Fowler started the day with a presentation on how far Sodexo has come, but also the steps that need to be taken to maintain and modernize sustainable practices. As she recapped the purpose of the “Learning Journey” she cited, “We need to be conscious of our processes and the impact they are making on a global level.”

During breakout sessions, Susan Matheson gave a presentation on the waste hierarchy and what efforts have been made at Kalamazoo College to cut back on the amount of waste that ultimately ends up at a landfill. Over the past few years, the things that have been implemented at K to cut back on food waste include creating the right size food portions; trayless dining; modifying menus when food is not received well by the students; new waste receptacles that make acting sustainably easier; no bottled water on campus; food waste goes to a local farm to feed the animals; cooking oil is rendered for animal feed; vermicomposting in all of the Living Learning Houses; communicating with food vendors asking them to comply with the sustainability efforts of the campus; and the purchase of local dairy, produce, and proteins.

Matheson cited, “Zero percent food waste to landfills by 2015 is achievable, but it must be a group effort.” A large part of the success of sustainability practices lies in the hands of the College’s students and staff. Matheson suggested, “Talk to students and get them engaged, but also learn from them and find out their ideas for the College, then teach realistic ways to achieve these goals.”

So far, Sodexo now diverts 83% of food waste from landfills through the various levels of the waste hierarchy. However, the College is still producing between one to two tons of food waste every week – about the size of a small car. It will take student involvement and initiative to improve upon current practices if the College hopes to reduce that number and reach the goal of 100% food waste diversion by 2015.

 Borrowed from The Index.