Claire Kelly (she/hers)
Over the years Davidson has undergone many iterations of composting. Most recently, they have partnered with Crown Town, a business whose goal is to make composting easy for everyone.
The company started by biking from door-to door, picking up people’s compostable items in a bin. Today, they have grown throughout the Charlotte area, serving over 1000 homes and collecting around 200 pounds of food waste annually. Now they own a farm in Mount Pleasant with greenhouses, animals, food, and hope to even hold visits and weekend getaways. In 2019, as Crown Town entered the market, Charlie Hyland joined the picture aiding the company’s growth into an up and coming business.
Hyland was intrigued and motivated by the health aspect of the process. “It was just a passion to help people and educate. I’ve got four kids, and so you know, just the understanding that if more soil isn’t produced, then eventually there is an end game,” Hyland said. “And so just the longevity of my kids and their health, as it pertains to quality food, was really the heart of it.”
Crown Town’s influence has permeated among Davidson’s campus. All four eating houses—Warner, Connor, Turner, and Rusk—along with Sigma Alpha Epsilson (SAE), Phi Gama Delta (FIJI), Sigma Phi Epsilon (SPE), Nummit, Davidson Dining, and the Sustainability Cooperative take part in composting. Throughout the week, the houses—except for the Sustainability Coop, whose resident Annie Didden oversees bringing their compost to a drop off spot at Town Hall—dispose of their compostable waste in biodegradable bags. Then, once a week, Crown Town comes to collect the bins along Patterson court. “I think an important aspect of sustainability is not being unique […] and just sharing,” says Warner Hall’s sustainability chair, Kate Lemire. “We are all part of the community making it a universal project.”
At Vail Commons, Pinky Varghese, head of Davidson Dining, says, “The food waste is minimal, because if there’s a leftover, we use it. […] We put it down in our blast chiller and reheat it for the next meal. […]” He explains that whatever is not reused is used for compost: “Whatever leftover comes in, we put it into a pulper, and it is crushed, and goes into a container. We partnered with the Crown Town composting, and they take it from here.”
Outside of composting, Commons takes the meaning of farm-to-table quite literally, as Davidson’s own farm sends food each day. “I would say the primary aspect of the farm that is sustainable is just how short the food travels to where it needs to go” says Halle Murphy, Davidson’s Farm Manager. “So instead of trucking this food over long distances—needing a refrigerated truck, it having to sit for many days—we just harvest the lettuce and […] in the same day, we’re taking it to Commons, and it’s being put into food.” After Crown Town takes the compost, it goes right back into Davidson. “We [Davidson College] get five free cubic yards from Crown Town in exchange for all Commons’s compostable dining scraps,” Murphey explains. “It [the compost soil] is housed at the farm but can be used all over Davidson.”
Further down North Main Street, local businesses including Summit Coffee, The Pickled Peach, Davidson Ice House, the Chef’s Garden, and The Pines, a retirement home, partner with Crown Town. Town residents are also involved; while some do their own backyard composting, many do residential composting, where they fill a roll cart full of their food waste and leave it on the street for Crown Town to pick up.
As for the future of sustainability in the town Davidson, Hyland, and the rest of Crown Town, hope to see the whole town become involved with composting. “I love Davidson. I love the food scene. […] I see it as attainable to get the whole town to do it,” Hyland says.
Hyland is not the only person who has plans for a more sustainable future in Davidson. Charlene Minor, the natural assets and sustainability coordinator in the Parks and Recreation Department in Davidson, has been involved with a “pilot program” for the town. This program would involve residents collecting their own compostable items and dropping them off in 1 of 5 locations throughout the town. Minor, someone who is environmentally conscious herself as she often uses her bike as a mode of transportation, emphasizes, “I just realized how many citizens or community members were interested in the environment. And I thought, wouldn’t it be great to bring everyone together and collaborate more? […] And that really made a big difference.”
Varghese made clear that Davidson Dining’s aim is, “To deliver memorable dining experiences that last a lifetime. “30 years down the line when you come back, I want you to say, ‘Oh, what about Davidson Dining Services […] made me happy?’ […] And that memorable dining experience, […] we want to be environmentally focused,” Varghese says.
Perhaps 30 years down the line, not only will we remember the delicious Commons meals, but also the collective efforts made throughout Davidson, NC to do their small part in a time of climate crisis.