Verde Valley School- Sustainability Updates
April 12, 2021
Despite the lack of normalcy over the past year, Verde Valley School (VVS) has stayed the course in sustainability practices. We never missed a beat with the recycling, composting, or the facilities crew improving efficiencies. Environmental Stewardship is truly baked into our school.
During the 2020 calendar year, we recycled more than 200 cubic yards of material (a cubic yard being a 3’x3’x3’ cube), including cardboard, paper, plastic, and metals. We also brought in 115 pounds of batteries that will be recycled. All of this is possible because of a great relationship with Sedona Recycles, our local recycling non-profit.
The compost program has seen a steady stream of food waste, though the streams have varied from prior years as we’ve weaved our way through the pandemic. More food waste from faculty and staff homes, more compostable flatware from dining services as meals have been to-go or taken outdoors, and then a little less food waste from the kitchen because they have had greater portion control due to serving meals at the food line, rather than a serve yourself model.
Our pit compost program has started to yield amazing soil. It took years to refine the input process, which included separating the larger wood material. The finer yard waste material is blended with horse manure (they are prolific) in pit rows, usually 6 – 8 feet deep, 8 feet wide, and anywhere from 40 – 60 feet long. The woodier material is stacked in a windrow above ground and mulched twice a year – a byproduct we use in tree wells and for landscaping.
In a pleasant act of neighborliness, we were able to borrow a rock grizzly – a device used to separate rocks and other bulk materials from the soil. This has brought more than ten years of pit composting full circle with a product that is perfect for building gardens and augmenting depleted soil. We have been sharing the soil with local nonprofits and schools and also selling it to the public.
Noah Suby, Director of Operations at VVS, and his crew have continued to replace aging and dying appliances with modern, energy-efficient products – from kitchen and plumbing to doors and windows. Additionally, Tom Stanley in maintenance spends a lot of his time rebuilding dilapidated furniture that keeps us from having to buy new replacements and the associated carbon footprint of that manufacturing process, and it shows a care for the things we have.
The VVS Farm continues to grow and evolve. Our fruit trees have survived the spring frosts and should bear loads of fruit this year. The raised beds are filled with greens – kale, spinach, arugula, and lettuce – VVS Farmer, Mike Spielman has been sharing these with the new VVS Executive Chef, Daren Alsup. Daren has shown a keen interest in the things growing in the garden and how to integrate them into his menus.
Our greenhouses are filled with seedlings and other plants Mike has grown from seed. Many of these will go into the ground on the farm and many will be on sale for the community – starting with a sale at the new Big Park Community Garden just up the road from VVS. The warm sun, healthy soil, water, and care have helped to make this spring alive with growth.
We have room to improve. Communicating why we do what we do and following through with continuing education and sharing results is a primary zone of improvement. Reducing our consumption habits, purchasing carbon offsets, and producing our energy are other zones we must work on. Keeping focus and moving purposefully will serve us well.
John Chorlton, Director of Sustainability- Verde Valley School