Did you know that the US wastes an estimated $165 Billion in food each year? Yes, $165 Billion. Where does that food come from? Where does it go? If we’re lucky, it is getting composted (estimates say <3%), but how does composting actually work, especially on a grand scale like hospitals, universities, and stadiums? Can we keep food out of landfills where it is currently the number one contributor to the waste stream and generating methane as it decomposes (20% of US methane production)?
Massachusetts has taken a stand and banned institutions from generating more than one ton of food waste per week. As of October 1, 2014, organizations must find ways to divert organic waste from landfills by composting, conversion, recycling, reuse, donation, or simply wasting less. Not only does this protect the environment from greenhouse gases, but it saves the state and institutions money for disposal costs. Institutions around the Commonwealth are now getting creative with solutions to meeting the requirements of the ban through education for staff members, reducing procurement and on-hand supplies, and making composting work for them.
Join Net Impact Boston tomorrow, Wednesday, January 21st, from 6-8 pm for an interactive panel: Apple Peels and Leftover Meals: How MA is Dealing with the Food Waste Ban. Panelists include:
- John Fischer is Branch Chief for Commercial Waste Reduction and Waste Planning at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). In this position, he coordinates MassDEP’s programs to advance waste reduction, recycling, and composting by businesses and institutions in Massachusetts. John also oversees development and implementation of Massachusetts’ Solid Waste Master Plan, solid waste and recycling data, the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, and disaster debris planning.
- Igor Kharitonenkov is a co-founder of Bootstrap Compost, a Greater Boston food scrap pickup service that partners with local farms to divert thousands of pounds of organic material from landfills every week. The farms benefit from the compost source material to in turn increase the production of crops while each Bootstrap subscriber receives a portion of cured compost for their own gardening projects. Igor will demystify composting, how it works, how it creates nutrients for fertile soil, and how individuals can get involved with composting.
- Robert Gogan is the Recycling & Waste Manager at Harvard University Operations Services. He is in charge of municipal solid waste reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, and removal of residuals on Harvard’s campus. As such, he has been working across the campus at meeting the requirements of the recent food waste ban, including composting programs, food preparation and disposal, and campus-wide compliance.
- Daniel Ruben is the executive director of Boston Green Tourism, which helps hotels reduce energy, water, waste, and toxins. In 2014, Dan was named the Sustainable Lodging “Person of the Year” for his work with Boston area hotels to make them more sustainable and cost effective. Find out more in this in-depth Q&A with Daniel.
Come to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center on Wednesday January 21, 6-8pm, to hear from John, Igor, Robert, and Dan and ask your questions about the Massachusetts Food Waste Ban, Composting, and how local institutions are dealing with it.
Sign up today – see you on Wednesday!
Daniel Ruben is the executive director of Boston Green Tourism, which helps hotels reduce energy, water, waste and toxins. We are lucky to have Dan joining us as a panelist at our Apple Peels and Leftover Meals event on Wednesday January 21. Check out this quick Q&A and sign up for Wednesday’s event to hear more from Dan.
What inspired you to pursue a career in sustainability?
I was a health care administrator and came to realize that in my free time, I didn’t think about how to improve health care. Instead, I thought about environmental protection and humanity’s future. So, I decided to change my career to reflect my passion
What’s the most interesting/most fun/most challenging aspect of your job?
The most fun part of my job is identifying important new green products and services, and fostering their adoption by the hotel sector. For example, I closely follow the use of energy storage by hotels in California and Hawaii. Some hotels there store energy in batteries at night and release it during periods of peak demand. Hence, they reduce the need to engage their region’s dirtiest power plants to meet peak demand, and they reduce the need to build new fossil fuel power plants. As soon as energy storage becomes viable in MA, I will introduce it to hotels and publicize the first hotels to use it.
What advice would you give to those looking for a career with a positive social or environmental impact?
I encourage people to start their own business. I’m not a natural entrepreneur. But I started Boston Green Tourism anyway, because I identified a need that wasn’t being addressed.
Why is food waste such an important issue to tackle when it comes to sustainability?
When food waste goes to landfills it creates methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. When it gets incinerated, it pollutes our atmosphere. But when it’s composted and anaerobically-digested, it preserves our soil and provides clean energy.
Individuals can also do their bit to reduce food waste – what is your favorite tip to help our members reduce their waste?
I compost in my house, using worms. I love showing my compost bin to children, because it communicates the value of living a greener lifestyle. I also have outdoor compost bins that process the leaves from my condo association and the food waste generated by neighbors and friends.
Come to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center on Wednesday January 21, 6-8pm, to hear from Dan and other professionals in the food waste arena. Panelists include representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) and Bootstrap Compost.
Sign up today – see you on Wednesday!