For some time, I’ve been curious just how “green” Natural Gourmet is. I’m not the only one; students ask me all the time about our greening efforts. I decided to ask Mark Mace, our Director of Operations, how we stack up. Mark cautioned me that “green” is a marketing term for “promoting the idea of doing less harm to the environment and fostering environmental sustainability.” That sounded suitably “marketspeak” to my ears. Still, as Mark outlined our ongoing effort to improve waste reduction, increase energy efficiency, and reduce our carbon footprint, I must say I was impressed.
“Over the past 16 months,” Mark says, “NGI has been moving in a direction to be as green as possible in the ways we conduct business and to purchase sustainable or local products, whenever possible.” The goal, in other words, is to align NGI’s environmental practices with our overall philosophy.
When it comes to waste management, NGI is definitely a team player. Students on a daily basis separate our food waste for composting, and our waste management company separates out our recyclable plastic, glass, and metal from the remaining trash. We’re also recycling office paper, cooking oil (30 gallons a month), and cardboard (approximately 3500 pounds a year).
When the Stewarding Department goes shopping, they’re now bringing NGI’s cloth totes along, reducing our consumption of plastic bags by 95% (Mark estimates roughly 2100 bags a year). 50% of our paper products are biodegradable, and 75% of our cleaning products are green-certified.
We are transitioning to our lighting to compact fluorescent, our heating and cooling systems have been updated with more energy-efficient thermostats, and the school has switched from disposable to rechargeable batteries (700 batteries a year).
Throughout the school we’re preserving water and improving its quality by using restrictive flow nozzles and double-filtering it at the tap. No bottled water needed! Our foodstuffs are organic whenever possible – 95% of our dry goods and 75%-90% of our produce (depending on season). While we make the effort to purchase local and regional whenever possible, Mark points out that “unlike a restaurant, which can design its menu to take advantage of seasonal availability, a cooking school’s purchasing requirements has to follow curriculum needs. Often times we have to buy non-local products out of season to meet these demands.”
“For us,” Mark says, “it’s more of an evolutionary process. There are definite limitations to what we can do and how far we can take it. We don’t own the building we operate in. This limits our overall ability to enact a comprehensive energy plan, but does not limit our ability to implement changes in those areas where we can make a big difference.” Mark’s plans for the school’s future include double-paned windows to improve energy costs, greatly reducing paper use (in line with other schools’ efforts), continuing to purchase more energy-efficient equipment, and using only biodegradable cleaners.
Here are some green and sustainable resources that Mark recommends: