William & Mary: W&M receives state award for environmental excellence

William & Mary has received a Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for its waste reduction work, according to an announcement made March 29 at the 32nd Annual Environment Virginia Symposium at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia.

W&M’s award was in the category of Commonwealth Application, which recognizes entities of the Commonwealth of Virginia for exemplary implementation of a waste reduction plan. The university’s efforts to divert single-use plastics and food waste away from landfills by adopting alternative materials and campus-wide composting were the focus of its award application.

The Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards recognize successful and innovative efforts that improve Virginia’s environment, according to its website. The awards program is run annually by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“It is a testament to our W&M Dining team and their commitment to sustainability, even during a pandemic, to receive such an award and recognition from our governor,” said Cindy Glavas, W&M executive director of auxiliary services and administrator for the university’s contract with Sodexo for dining services.

Steve Moyer, operations manager at Commons Dining Hall, serves as advisor for W&M’s dining sustainability interns, who manage the composting program.

“Waste reduction is not just one person or one location, rather a culture that I am glad to be a part of,” Moyer said.

Waste diversion from landfills is part of the university’s Climate Action Roadmap, which guides sustainability efforts on campus.

“Dining Services has been a longstanding champion of sustainability efforts at W&M,” said W&M Director of Sustainability Calandra Waters Lake. “As the university makes progress toward its waste reduction goals, recognition of their efforts to reduce single-use plastic and food waste is well deserved.”

The university already was eliminating single-use plastics in dining halls prior to last year’s implementation of governor’s Executive Order 77, which set specific dates for items to be phased out at state institutions.

“Key to the university’s waste reduction efforts has been significant progress made in dining services prior to COVID, including the dining halls discontinuing the distribution of single-use plastics, (implementing) reusable to-go containers and, most importantly, the composting program institutionalized in 2010,” according to the university’s award application. “The existence of these efforts and programs has helped streamline the EO 77 process and progress, particularly of cessation items.”

Since W&M started its composting program in 2010, it has been available in all campus dining halls where pre-consumer food waste such as that created in food preparation, post-consumer food and compostable foodware is collected. Drop-off bins were strategically located across campus prior to COVID, but greatly expanded in the last two years to accommodate the increase in outdoor eating and associated compostable items being distributed with to-go meals.

Compost bins are located in 10 locations across campus. The university contracts with an industrial facility in Waverly, Virginia, to process the compostable materials, which include compostable foodware and all types of food. Compost credits are accrued and used to have compost delivered to locations such as the university’s campus garden and a local farm partnership.

In 2020, W&M’s composting program placed second in the nation for a university of its size in the annual Race to Campus Zero Waste, previously RecycleMania, competition. Diverting food and compostable foodware from the waste stream of the university means the waste dumpsters do not need to be emptied as often and the amount spent on waste services is reduced, according to the award application.

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