Saturday, June 28, 2014

From the Cow Pastures to the Lunch Line: How is St. Paul’s Going Green?

Famous for the amount of food produced, the St. Paul’s School dining hall strives to be conscientious of the environmental world that we take for granted 

Larry Pletcher, owner of The Vegetable Ranch
Photo credit
The dining hall at SPS serves an assortment of high quality food to students almost year round. There are several ways in which the dining hall staff, in conjunction with the former SPS Environmental Stewardess Maura Adams, has improved the sustainability of the dining hall. In order to decrease the amount of food wasted by students and faculty, SPS must improve the sustainability of the food services on campus through several environmental strategies.

First, eliminating the use of the traditional lunch trays and implementing normal-sized plates and bowls drastically reduced the portion sizes of students and subsequently, the amount of food wasted after meals. Next on the sustainability checklist for the dining hall was how to reuse the food that gets thrown away. The solution? Compositing! The dining hall staff separates food, napkins, and other biodegradable materials used at meals. In addition, plastics and aluminum are recycled and reused in different ways. Food, napkins etc. can be composted to eventually produce soil that can be used to grow the vegetables and fruit that we eat and the grass that feeds the cows that become our meat source.

The plastics and aluminium waste produced at the dining hall can be recycled into new soda bottles, plastic pens, bags, and even clothes! By recycling these products to make new ones, SPS not only reduce the waste, but SPS reduces the amount of resources mankind requires to manufacturer new products. Buying food from local marketplaces ensures that SPS maintains sustainable consumption of foods. SPS takes that one step further. Larry Pletcher, owner of The Vegetable Ranch (LLC), in Warren NH, and has been given a plot of land on campus by the school to grow his produce. Roughly 10-15% of his harvests goes directly from the field to the kitchen at SPS, according to Sustenance and Sustainability Master Teacher Courtney Jackson. Growing its own food helps the dining hall tremendously in improving its sustainability.

To further improve SPS sustainability, the school dedicated plots of land that are used as a pasture for cows to graze. As a result of this strategy, SPS now produces their own beef, which reduces the amount of resources that would be needed to ship hundreds of pounds of beef across the country and onto the campus.

SPS reduced the need for lawn mowers and pesticide treatment because the cows act as natural lawn mowers for the field they graze, and the pasture doesn’t have to be manicured using gasoline from a real lawn mower and with harmful chemical pesticides that can destroy local ecosystems. Many large beef producing companies no longer grass-fed their cattle because it is more expensive than a grain mixture, and this mixture actually makes cows more susceptible to disease. Eating beef that is grass-feed is beneficial to the health of the SPS community and this method helps to ensure the humane treatment of the farm-raised animals.

Between composting the food and increasing the ways in which the community can produce its own food, SPS has become more conscientious of how humans impact the environment. Because of the actions of humans, the world is facing environmental problems that have never before been seen, and humanity must find the strength to overcome the belief that humans are separate from the rest of the living world.


  1. Peter,
    This article is REALLY interesting! It amazes me how wonderful St. Paul's school is in regards to the architecture, classes offered and friendly staff, however, your article really opened my eyes to another side of SPS. The information you found regarding how SPS raises their cows and doesn't use harmful chemicals on the grass they feed to them was very intriguing. It makes me feel so much better about eating the food here! The statistic you included regarding the fact that 10-15% of The Vegetable Ranch's harvests come to SPS to be served is truly informative and helpful to those who spend most of their day in the dining hall (I.E. most of us). Great article!

    1. I'm happy I was able to describe another side of SPS that many people don't know about. I am glad you (and others) found sustainability somewhat interesting, as this type of stuff can be boring at times!

  2. Peter. You killed it. This article has a great balance of information and application. All the examples you give makes your article feel really real for the ASP community. I agree with Meghan ^, the part about the cows was really interesting, because I had NO idea that aspect of ASP existed. I think you should write a follow up article about the greenhouse and how it could be used for gardening over the summer, because it would be really cool if ASP could be made more sustainable through gardening practices.
    Great job!

    1. Thanks mason! I am glad I was able to make sustainability interesting and find information that many people didn't know about!

  3. Peter,
    This is a great article. I did not realize how much St. Paul's did. The part about the cows was extremely interesting to me because just like Mason said I had no idea that ASP did that. It would be cool if ASP used the greenhouse for gardening over the summer. Great Job Peter!

  4. Thanks mibson! I was surprised as well to find out we have our own cows!! Nice thought about the greenhouse as well.