We Love Compost
Gilman is the first school in the area to implement a commercial-scale, food waste collection for composting. At the end of lunch, students separate their waste into appropriate containers, only 1% of which becomes trash for landfills. Anything that can be composted (including milk cartons and napkins) goes into the composting buckets. The waste becomes compost, which the School can then collect at a later time for plantings and other uses.
Food waste is a major contributor to the methane gas formation found in landfills. Methane gas is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat close to the earth's surface. At Gilman, 100% of our food waste is composted, and Gilman receives new soil proportional to the compost credits we receive from our partner, Waste Neutral.
Our food composting program began in September 2009. In the first three months alone, we saved 17.13 tons (or 34,260 pounds) of food waste from going to landfill; the total for the year was 52,640 pounds. We've saved an awful lot of gas from escaping into the atmosphere.
The only true trash generally comes from saltine wrappers or the occasional ice cream sandwich wrapper! We can see the results: before composting, the School processed an average of 128.5 tons of trash. Now that number has dropped to an average of 82 tons.
To Tray, or Not to Tray
Before the dining hall opened in 2008, Gilman administrators decided to forego carrying trays in the dining hall, particularly for the Upper School. Instead, students would receive their meals on a regular-sized round dinner plate. The thinking is two-fold: first, not having a tray to carry plates limits the amount of food one can take, therefore reducing waste, and, second, not having extra trays to wash conserves water and the energy to heat dishwashing water.
Gilman is one of the first independent schools in the area to go trayless. Other schools are beginning to follow our lead.