Remember Why We’re Here

Among the waste reduction projects I worked on at Zephyr Cove, my favorite was working on food waste. I knew I would be working with food waste reduction before I came here; it’s one of the things that attracted me to the position. When I got here, I learned that the site has a food management process that’s used at all ARAMARK sites; the program has a strong emphasis on reducing un-needed waste. I was very excited to jump in and get my hands dirty (literally).

 My duties ended up including making sure all that could be composted was being composted properly, working with kitchen staff to help them embrace the program, working to see how we could further decrease waste by examining what was going in the compost buckets every day, and also weighing the waste. This is a good example of a place where sustainability intersects with practical goals: wasting less food means saving more money.

Along with waste reduction, something else I didn’t have to push very hard for was purchasing sustainable food. The company is moving towards only buying seafood that is “best choice” or “good alternative” Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch recommended. Our Executive Chef came from a California property that was very dedicated to buying sustainable and local food so he was very loyal to this commitment. Over time, we plan to make sure all seafood ordered to our site is approved by the Seafood Watch program. I also got to work a bit with tracking these purchases in order to showcase how much sustainable seafood we buy.

ARAMARK also has a commitment to reducing water and electricity use. In terms of water use, our site already does a lot to encourage guests to use less water, for example featuring signs in all guest rooms instructing guests on how to reduce water use during their stay and encouraging them to use their towels and linens for more than one day. We also use EPA Water Sense approved low flow shower heads. I worked a bit on inventorying what we had and proposing some ideas for low flow sink aerators.

I spent more hours on an LED lighting proposal than I did on anything else. For this project, I also did an inventory of what we currently had, and then worked for what seemed like forever to find the perfect LED lamps to switch out our CFL’s for. My manager, the Assistant Controller, and I created a convincing financial argument for LED’s by showing the electrical costs they would save us over 10 years’ time.

It’s interesting to me how a lot of environmental jobs can be desk jobs. It was frustrating to do so much work that involved internet research and presentations and proposals to bosses; tasks like these sometimes make it hard to remember what you’re really working towards and make it easy to feel disconnected from the purpose of the project. But whenever it had been a rough, long day at work, ending the day with a view like this always made it all okay:

The scenery of Tahoe is something that always helps to remind me of why I’m here and what’s really important: protecting and sustaining natural resources and the natural world. Escaping the indoors and the built environment really helps reinforce this for me.

With all of the untouched land and natural beauty of Tahoe, it’s definitely a place that feels like humans and their buildings are the intruders. Tahoe obviously belongs to the mountains, the trees, and the wildlife like the beautiful blue Steller’s Jay birds that anyone who spends even a small amount of time in the forest will see. Like I said, it’s a place that always helps to remind me of these things, and I think it does the same for others. Just look at the picture up top, taken on a hike to Maggie’s Peak, where you can see not only Lake Tahoe, but also Emerald Bay, Cascade Lake, and a few other smaller lakes in the area… don’t you agree?

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