O’Dowd was recently awarded a $30,000 grant from the Altamont Education Advisory Board to continue the school’s Zero Waste program. This is the largest grant O’Dowd has ever received for a specific project related to sustainability.
This Board’s grant funds are distributed to schools, non-profits, individuals and other organizations working to reduce the amount of waste headed to landfill.
O’Dowd is making great strides in this area, having established a Zero Waste program during the 2013-14 academic year, and is on target to become a zero waste campus by 2020. This means the school must reuse, recycle or compost 90 percent of the waste generated.
Towards that end, O’Dowd has actively committed to three major strategies, including diversion infrastructure, reduction tracking and education, and Director of Sustainability Andra Yeghoian said the grant will allow for enhancement of these efforts.
Grant funds will be used to purchase two on-site commercial fully enclosed composting systems, called Earth Tubs, which can jointly compost up to 200 pounds of organic material a day.
Currently O’Dowd has a rotating bin compost system that accommodates grass clippings plant material and fresh produce cuttings from the Cafeteria. “This system only accommodates about 15 percent of the organic waste produced on campus,” Yeghoian said.
“In addition to increasing on-site organics processing, the new composting system will potentially reduce the trips Waste Management makes to haul O’Dowd’s waste to the landfill from three times a week to once a week, which is a huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” she added.
In order to properly maintain the existing tri-bin waste system, special triple capacity push carts will be purchased to aid custodial staff in the collection process.
And a new, robust digital online dashboard system, that provides a clearer picture of overall associated costs and greenhouse gas emissions from O’Dowd’s waste generation, will provide benchmarking and tracking capabilities.
The grant will also support the expansion of O’Dowd’s “Green Gloves” waste diversion and reduction training program. Currently incoming freshmen students participate in a two-day training session led by the senior Eco Leadership Class that includes both an educational component and hands-on waste sorting activities. The plan is to use the grant funds to take the “Green Gloves” program to local elementary, middle and high school students.
“The long-term effects of these programs will be that every student understands the deep impact waste has on our planet and society, and has the knowledge to step up and take individual responsibility. Their expertise and skills can be transferred to home life, which will have a ripple effect on the greater Bay Area community,” Yeghoian said.