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Zero Waste Warriors: Bethany School Combats Cafeteria Food Waste

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

The Bethany School is taking significant strides towards reducing its waste. In fact, their ambitious goal is to divert 70% of their cafeteria waste stream away from the landfill by 2025.


After joining the Let's Stop Waste at School program, Bethany School's student green team conducted a waste audit. The results revealed that over 55% of their cafeteria waste was compostable - the equivalent of over 3,000 pounds of food annually! This led to their Towards Zero Waste initiative, an action plan to hit their targets.

In 2022, Hamilton County R3Source (R3Source) awarded the school the Waste Reduction Innovation Grant to launch its program. These funds helped them add several items to their cafeteria, including:

  • A commercial dishwasher in the kitchen to make dishwashing easier

  • A commercial mixer to make more large-quantity food offerings from scratch, reducing single serving packaging waste

  • Reusable wheat-straw cups and bowls

  • Stainless-steel sporks

  • Bulk dispensers for milk, cereal and condiments to cut packaging waste

  • A waste sorting station to collect compost, recycling and trash

These changes not only reduced waste but has also saved the school money in the long run. That is how the school could justify a contract with GoZero, the local commercial composting courier, to divert their food waste. They were also able to begin a worm composting program with K - 2 classrooms!



Students in Bethany Eco-Hawks, the school’s 6th through 8th-grade green team, collect, sort and weigh every waste item from the cafeteria in May 2022. Photo credit: Margaret Kessler.
Students in Bethany Eco-Hawks, the school’s 6th through 8th-grade green team, collect, sort and weigh every waste item from the cafeteria in May 2022. Photo credit: Margaret Kessler.

Whole-School Approach and Community Education


A whole-school approach ensured that the entire community, including students, parents and teachers, as well as kitchen, janitorial and maintenance staff, learned about the problems of lunch waste and solutions to those problems.

To roll out this educational component, the school again leaned on its partnership with R3Source. Outreach Specialist Elise visited the school to teach about waste, recycling, and composting. She even held a virtual parent workshop to discuss ideas for packing a zero-waste lunch.

"Bethany School's efforts are an excellent example of how schools can take meaningful steps to reduce their food waste," said Tony Staubach, Food Waste Diversion Coordinator at Hamilton County R3Source. "The school has reduced waste while also creating a valuable learning opportunity for their entire community."


Recipe:

Bean and Barley Soup


Want to take the lessons learned into your own home? Use your vegetable scraps and aging produce to make soup. You can add to the list of ingredients below any produce you want to use up. It’s fun, educational, and a great way to save some money!


  • 4 cups vegetable stock (make your own here)

  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

  • 1 red onion

  • 4 stalks celery

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 4-5 medium carrots

  • 1 tsp. soy sauce

  • 1 tsp. dried basil

  • 1 tsp. dried thyme

  • 1 cup barley

  • 1 cup white or red beans (canned or dried)


Instructions

  1. In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat.

  2. Add chopped onions, celery, carrots, and garlic, cook until tender (about 10 minutes).

  3. Add stock, soy sauce, basil, and thyme, bring to a boil.

  4. Add beans and barley, simmer for 45 minutes.

  • If your soup starts to dry out, add a cup of hot water to the pot.


Contributed by Vivian Melody, Director of Sustainability and Communications at the Community of the Transfiguration



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