Diversion of Food Waste From Landfills as Part of a Wider Green Program
By John Cario General Manager, Hilton Garden Inn Richmond Downtown | May 12, 2013
As kids we probably all heard our parents tell us not to waste our food. Ever since our opening in the restored historic Miller & Rhoads department store building, our Hilton Garden Inn Richmond Downtown takes that sentiment to heart.
Our hotel established a baseline environmental program in 2010 and made commitments to continuously improve our environmental performance over time. In March 2011, we made the decision to begin composting our food wastes. Since then, the hotel has diverted nearly 30 tons of food waste from piling up in landfills. We are the first and only hotel in the region to compost its food wastes.
As a participant in Virginia Green, a green certification program for the tourism industry in the state, we were already committed to reducing our environmental impact, but we decided to expand our efforts to include food composting.
Virginia Green is the state's program that promotes environmentally friendly practices in the tourism industry. The program counts more than 1,200 participants, including more than 400 lodging facilities, and is recognized by AAA's eco-icon program. Virginia Green Lodging was the first program established in the Virginia Green Network, but other sectors of the tourism industry, such as restaurants and attractions, have begun to follow suit. In order to become Virginia Green Lodging certified, hotels must meet certain requirements, such as recycling, water and energy conservation, optional linen service, and green events.
To set up the program, I worked with Tom Griffin, director of Greener Results Sustainability Services, and RVA Green Management Services to conduct a waste stream audit during a typical week of operations. A waste stream is the total amount of materials that come out of the back end of the hotel.
According to RVA's Web site, "waste stream audits are an efficient waste reduction tool for any organization as it will identify waste management problems and opportunities for improving environmental efforts and cost savings." The audit included weighing all materials that were being disposed, conducting a pilot collection of all food prep wastes and assessing every single item that went into every bag of trash during the course of one day.