Going "Green" in Cheesemaking
The cheese department recently signed on to be part of the “Vermont Green Dairy Cohort” for April 2019-April 2020! We will be working with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Efficiency Vermont to track our environmental impacts and make improvements to our waste stream, water usage, energy usage, and wastewater management within our cheesemaking facility.
DEC kicked off its cohort initiative last year by involving local breweries in the “Green Brewery Cohort”. Because of the glowing success of that effort, DEC decided to launch additional “Sustainability Cohorts.” Dairy and specialty foods are the next two sectors.
As Creamery Manager, I am excited to be spearheading participation in this cohort along with Andi, our Head Cheesemaker. As part of the program, both of us are signed up for a “Certified Green Production” course through the Community College of Vermont. The course will allow us to connect with other producers in the industry to troubleshoot challenges and share ideas.
So far, at this early stage of the program, we have completed the initial facility walk through with the DEC and Efficiency Vermont. Benchmarks are being established so that we can track our progress in various areas over the next year. We already have some great ideas and are starting to make some small changes.
Our first big transition is to compost our paper towels and any curds/cheese that we lose in our process, instead of throwing them in the trash. We are also now recycling our plastic films (mainly vacuum seal bags) through the Trex recycling program. We are hoping to divert as much trash as possible to compost and recycling to minimize what we send to the landfill. Through this program, we have discovered that 70% of the waste we were putting in the trash can be composted or recycled, so we are off to a good start!
The dairy and cheesemaking are the foundation of Shelburne Farms’ educational campus, so we are always looking for ways to improve our sustainability efforts. We are excited to be a part of this cohort, and we are looking forward to networking with other local food producers who have decided to be leaders in this sustainability effort!