June 15, 2011
By Marge Neal
Musket Ridge Golf Club is nestled among the rich, verdant, rolling hills of the Middletown Valley. Inside the club, its recycling practices are just as green as those rolling hills.
The organization recently became the first golf club on the East Coast to embrace a zero food-waste policy. The new initiative puts Musket Ridge at the opposite end of the recycling spectrum from where it began just a short time ago.
Catoctin Hall, Musket Ridge's event facility, is a busy place that hosts upwards of 15 events a week or more, according to Bonnie Swanson, events sales manager.
Customers who are passionate about taking care of the environment often ask about green practices when looking for an event facility, according to Damon DeVito, managing director of Affinity Management, which oversees club operations. The answers to those questions could make the difference between being selected for an event or not.
After officials decided to put more green practices in place, the club started with baby steps.
"We started recycling cardboard, aluminum, glass and plastic," Executive Chef Kyle Roberson said. "I looked at it as more of a challenge, and our employees bought into it."
Recycling bins were placed inside the club, restaurant and kitchen and on the grounds. One commercial trash bin was removed and replaced with one for just cardboard, Roberson said.
Next, club officials found a place that would take the restaurant's used cooking oil. "We used to have it hauled away, and God only knows where it ended up," Roberson said. "Now it's being turned into biofuels."
Musket Ridge joined the big leagues when it decided to implement the zero food-waste initiative.
Using a system called Bokashi composting, staff members are recycling all food waste, even those items that can't be composted in the traditional manner, such as dairy products and proteins.
Bokashi, which means fermented organic matter in Japanese, is a process that uses microorganisms to ferment organic waste.
"Old-fashioned composting is a rotting or decomposition process," DeVito said. "This is a fermentation process that can accommodate all foods, including meat, and takes a much shorter period of time."
The restaurant has two main sources of food waste, Roberson said. Food waste in the kitchen consists of things like fat trimmed from meat and vegetable ends and peelings. On the consumer end, there are the leftovers that don't get eaten.
"We estimate that we'll save about four tons a year from the landfills," Roberson said.
The chef said he was pleasantly surprised at how effortless it was to implement the recycling in the kitchen. Food trimmings were being put in a can to begin with, he said, so it didn't really take much effort to put them in a separate bucket instead of the trash can.
Employees embraced the concept and made the transition to food recycling seamlessly, according to Roberson.
In an enclosed utility room off the kitchen, three large trash bins are where the composting takes place.
When 5-gallon buckets in the kitchen are filled with scraps, they are dumped in the larger bins. Layers of food are covered with a layer of bokashi, which is a mixture of wheat bran, molasses and the special microorganisms that cause an anaerobic fermentation process.
Once the bin is full, it takes about two weeks for the food waste to completely break down.
The bins full of compost are dumped in a wooded area, covered with mulch and then covered with tarps.
In true full-circle fashion, the compost will be used as fertilizer in beds and gardens around the course.
A vegetable and herb garden was recently created to grow produce that will be used in the kitchen.
Composted food waste will be used to grow more food, completing the circle, Roberson said.
The food recycling has a cost as well as savings.
"In the big picture, it isn't about money," Roberson said. "If we save money, we save money, but more important to me is what we're doing."
Swanson said the green practices will ultimately result in more business for the facility. "If you do things for the right and pure and good reasons, the rewards will come back to you," she said.