DSCN2564This is a guest post from Michael Virga, Executive Director of the US Composting Council (USCC).

We love the mission of Chef’s Collaborative to provide its members with information and resources to help foster a more sustainable food supply, strengthen the connection to nature, and support local economies.

One of the most impactful ways to accomplish all three is through the composting of organic residuals and by using compost! According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food residuals are now the #1 material that goes into landfills and incinerators. And food residuals from restaurants make up 15% of all of the food that ends up in landfills.

Million_Tomato_logoThe US Composting Council (USCC) invites members of Chefs Collaborative to participate in a new campaign where you can get involved with local community gardens and food pantries to grow a million tomatoes for needy families. The USCC is a national, non-profit trade and professional organization promoting the recycling of organic materials through composting. Visit www.buy-compost.com to learn more about the Million Tomato Compost campaign and to find out how you can participate in your own community.

Many of you already practice responsible food scrap disposal in your own restaurants. If not, there’s never been a better time to start. To help you get started, refer to these best-practice tips prepared by the USCC: www.buy-compost.com.

The USCC is proud to help close the loop by using the finished compost that food scraps helped create. It’s a great campaign and we would encourage all of you to join Chef’s Collaborative, AmpleHarvest.org, the American Community Gardening Association and renowned chef Nathan Lyon, in introducing Americans to the value of compost.

Why Use Compost?

  • Compost grows healthier, bigger plants
  • Compost builds healthy soil
  • Compost reduces chemical fertilizer needs
  • Compost holds water and reduces runoff
  • Compost is, by its nature, a local and sustainable product

What Can I Do?

  • Be aware! Measure everything you’re throwing away so you can diagnose problems, set baselines and dig into what’s driving the waste.
  • Strive for 100% utilization! Between 4-10% of all food purchased by restaurants is wasted before it even hits the plate. Vegetable scraps can be used for soups; meat scraps for meatloaf. Use the whole animal whenever possible.
  • Don’t throw it away! Anything organic (anything that used to be alive) can be chucked in a compost bin. This also includes clean or soiled coffee filters, pizza boxes, paper cups or plates, paper napkins/towels or wooden chopsticks.
  • Close the Loop! Go to www.buy-compost.com and sign up for the Million Tomato Compost Campaign. There you can look for participating community gardens in your area who are interested in teaming up with chefs like you! Hold a cooking demo or talk about sustainable food with a local school. They’ll provide the marketing tools and templates, but it’s up to you how you want to use them!