By feeding 80 tons of food scraps to its animals, and preventing more than 13 tons of food waste from entering landfills, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and Chumash Casino Resort on May 13 received the 2014 Food Recovery Challenge certificate of achievement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"It’s great to receive this acknowledgement," said Santa Ynez Band Chairman Vincent Armenta in a statement from the EPA after the certificate was presented at the Regional Tribal Operations Council meeting. “It not only recognizes the wonderful work of our Chumash Casino Resort facilities’ team but also motivates us to continue finding new ways to be environmentally sustainable."
The EPA said the Chumash’s efforts go beyond just avoiding food waste and extends to larger environmental issues.
“Through their participation in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge, the Chumash are providing much needed leadership in the Pacific Southwest,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld, “They are fighting climate change and advancing the cause of zero waste in Santa Barbara County.”
Under the program, the EPA joins forces with organizations and businesses to cut down on the amount of food that gets thrown out. Such groups include grocers, educational institutions, sports and entertainment venues, restaurants and hotels, the EPA said. Besides cutting down on food waste, the measures save money, reduce hunger, encourage the donation of extra food and promotes composting, the EPA noted.
The initiative was multifaceted. In 2010 the tribe established a zero-waste program, overseen by its environmental department, that has put on more than 100 tribal events encouraging zero waste, including at its Intertribal Pow Wow, which “diverted over 7,000 pounds of waste from the landfill to achieve an 87.5 percent diversion rate,” the EPA said.
The Chumash Casino Resort, among other measures, has cut water use virtually in half since 2012 by using reclaimed water in its drought-tolerant landscaping, cooling systems and toilets, the EPA said.