Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Nate Update: It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green

I'm an evening student in the Classic Pastry Arts program here at FCI. Food and writing are two of my passions in life, and I'm excited to bring you The Nate Update, snapshots from my life in and out of class.

Each year as Earth Day approaches, I can’t help but think about Joe Raposo’s old song “Bein’ Green,” sung woefully by an identity-challenged Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street in the 1970s, and how modern environmental challenges have morphed the tune into a whole new meaning for me. As I sit here looking at all the stuff surrounding me in my apartment, it’s crazy to think that most of it—the television, computer, movies, my cell phone, and probably even the couch I’m sitting on—will one day find their way into a landfill. Then I think about all of the non-recyclables I regularly toss into the garbage that add up to at least a couple trash bags a week destined for the city dump, and I’m reminded time and time again how very hard it is to be green on even a basic level.

The FCI deals with their recycling and waste materials on a much more environmentally friendly level than many businesses and residences in NYC. It starts by having students and staff separate the materials into their appropriate bins as they’re created in the classroom, and one of the larger receptacles is for compost. A lot of the waste FCI creates is in the form of compostable matter that could include any number of different food scraps such as old pastry dough, egg shells, coffee grounds, banana peels, etc. While my apartment building isn’t currently set up to process compost, which means I have to throw it out, The FCI has enlisted an environmental services company called Action Carting to collect the compost daily. According to Matt Randall, FCI’s Director of Facilities, the school produces over a ton of compost each day, making FCI one of the top composters in NYC! The compost materials are then taken to Action Carting’s facility and allowed to decompose in a controlled environment, eventually producing a high quality topsoil that is sold to farmers, starting the cycle all over again.

Some other green things going on around The FCI campus include the use of water filters as opposed to electric coolers that require energy-sapping cooling tanks, a ‘No Styrofoam’ policy to ensure the almost impossible to break down polystyrene substance is eliminated from the trash bins entirely, and the use of energy-saving compact fluorescent lighting. I was surprised to learn that FCI even recycles its grease! J&R Rendering Company collects used grease from animal and vegetable fat and turns it into biodiesel, a much cleaner burning fuel that can be used in most modern diesel engines.

All of this has me wondering if there’s anything I can do to convince the agency that governs not only my apartment building, but dozens of others around the city, to enlist more earth-friendly waste management companies that could put literally tons of waste each year to much better use? One of the hardest parts of being green is gently trying to persuade others to join in the cause of helping to sustain the delicate balance of our planet, but this Earth Day I’m certainly going to try!

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