EPA awards Zion Lodge for waste food recovery, composting efforts

Alex Rogers, sustainability manager at Zion Lodge, opens composting container to show blackened compost nearing its final stages, Zion National Park, Utah, Jan. 12, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

ZION NATIONAL PARK – Zion Lodge, which has been composting its food waste for more than a decade, has received national recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its efforts.

Zion Lodge employees are joined by EPA and park officials in receiving award for winning the EPA’s 2017 “Food Recovery Challenge” in the hotels, resorts and lodging sector, Zion National Park, Utah, Jan. 12, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

EPA officials presented the lodge with an award plaque Friday identifying it as the 2017 national winner of the agency’s “Food Recovery Challenge” in the hotels, resorts and lodging sector.

The lodge, which is Zion National Park’s only in-park lodging, is operated by Xanterra Parks and Resorts.

Read more: Parkitecture day; experiencing the Golden Age of Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon parks through their lodges

“Last year, food recovery efforts at the lodge diverted nearly 30,000 pounds of food waste from entering the landfill, saving Xanterra about $3,000 in disposal costs,” Patrick Davis, an EPA official who is the senior advisor to the regional administrator for public engagement, said during brief remarks Friday. Davis added:

To win this award, Xanterra was committed to educating staff and guests about food waste, emphasizing smaller meals and removing trays. Behind the kitchen doors is where Xanterra really performed, partnering with the National Park Service to develop one of the first systems in the world to use a shredder, centrifuge and dehydrator setup to process waste, and constantly training a seasonal kitchen staff to change the way they think about food waste.

Catherine Greener, vice president for sustainability at Xanterra, said approximately 40 percent of the food produced in the United States goes to waste, but the national goal is to reduce that waste by 50 percent by 2030.

Automated food recovery taking place in kitchen of Zion Lodge, Zion National Park, Utah, Jan. 12, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Greener said the sustainability initiatives at Zion Lodge are the result of years of consistent dedication and hard work.

“It’s a commitment. It’s what we do,” Greener said.

Davis and other EPA officials joined Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh and other park officials, along with Zion Lodge general manager Daisy Hobbs and other Xanterra managers and staff, in making the formal award presentation.

“Thank you so much for your dedication,” Bradybaugh told the lodge’s employees.

Following the presentation, Alex Rogers, the lodge’s sustainability manager, led attendees on a guided tour that showed what happens to uneaten food after it is brought back into the restaurant’s kitchen.

Alex Rogers, sustainability manager at Zion Lodge, shows how recovered food looks after it has been dehydrated. Pictured behind Rogers is U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official Patrick Davis, Zion National Park, Utah, Jan. 12, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

After being scraped from the plates, the food is spun and shredded by a processing machine, after which it is taken in buckets to a nearby composting facility to be converted into garden compost, a process that takes six to eight weeks. Leaves and other landscaping waste are added to the mix, and the compost is then either donated to local community gardens and residents or used in Xanterra’s own community garden.

Rogers also highlighted several other areas where the lodge has been making efforts to be more environmentally responsible and have a “softer footprint.” These include solar water-heating systems, more efficient lighting and laundry systems and giving guests the option to forego daily housekeeping.

In addition, the lodge stopped selling one-use bottled water in 2009; instead, guests can fill up their refillable water bottles at designated water fountain filling stations. The lodge also utilizes electric, hybrid and other energy-efficient vehicles in its fleet and has a public charging station for electric vehicles.

Even the gift shop is involved, as many of the souvenir T-shirts for sale are made from recycled nylon, Rogers noted.

The award is the latest of several recent environmental awards and certifications attained by Zion Lodge, including the National Park Service Environmental Achievement award, ISO 14001:2004 Certification, the Green Seal Gold Level Certification.

In addition, in 2017, The Sentinel and The Watchman hotel buildings at Zion Lodge became the first National Park concession facility to become LEED Silver certified. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used sustainable building rating system in the world.

For information on Xanterra and Zion Lodge’s sustainability programs, click here.

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