May 24, 2013

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USU Students Aid Herm's Inn with Recycling Plan

Mary-Ann Muffoletto

May 24, 2013

When planning a restaurant launch, proprietors probably focus primarily on a theme, menu choices and inviting décor. But the day-to-day operation of a successful business also depends on the bottom line as well as adherence to regulations. On top of that, who wants to think about garbage and recycling?

Local restaurant Herm’s Inn recently received welcome assistance from Utah State University students Rachelle Messner, Nikol Larsen and Jacoby Knight, who tackled the dirty job of waste management as a project for Department of Environment and Society faculty member Roslynn Brian’s Communicating Sustainability class.

“We partnered with Herm’s Inn co-owner and manager Ryan Bird, along with Logan City’s Environmental Department, to evaluate the restaurant’s current recycling program and determine how we could make it more sustainable,” says Messner, an undergraduate environmental studies major.

A limiting factor for the restaurant, which is located in a residential area, is space.  

The students found the existing space for waste occupied by a dumpster receiving twice-weekly city garbage pick-ups, with little room for recycling. They enlisted help from Logan City Environmental Department employees Emily Malik, conservation coordinator, and Jeff Spatig, customer service manager, in conducting a waste audit for the popular eatery.

“Yes, I’m kind of like a ‘garbage detective,’” Spatig says. “When I do an audit, I literally go through an entire dumpster of garbage.”

What Spatig found was a “significant amount” of cardboard, plastics and tin cans the restaurant could recycle and thus reduce the cost and frequency of trash pick-ups and the space needed for garbage.

“We went through the results of the audit and found we could replace the existing dumpster with a smaller one and add recycle containers,” Larsen says. “As we tallied it up, we estimated these changes could save Herm’s Inn more than $200 a month or nearly $2,500 a year.”

In addition, the students determined that, in one year, Herm’s Inn could divert a whopping 16,224 cubic feet of garbage from landfills.

“We were really impressed with the results,” Bird says. “Being able to take these steps fits with our sustainable mission and is welcome news as we approach our first year anniversary.”

Logan — To help Herm’s Inn implement the upgraded recycling program, the students are preparing an employee training plan. In addition, the students have designed a custom recycling logo to grace the restaurant’s take-out containers and recycling bins.

“This is a way of showcasing Herm’s Inn’s commitment to sustainability throughout the community and to encourage its customers to pursue similar efforts,” Knight says.

The recycling project is just the beginning of Herm’s Inn’s partnership with USU. Student Chloe Bickmore, an intern for USU’s Student Organic Farm, is working with Bird on ideas to keep the restaurant supplied with local food.

The Herm’s Inn project was one of a number of projects conducted by students in Brain’s ENVS 4700 class. Other groups worked with campus entities, a local public school and a local religious congregation on varied sustainability projects.

The purpose of the course, Brain says, is to explore the use of educational and communication strategies to encourage the adoption of sustainable behaviors and to partner with the public in developing ongoing programs that encourage sustainability.

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