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From the beginning of the food chain all the way to the end, there are so many ways to make a difference and support sustainability. Here in northwestern Montana, building partnerships and working together is key.

In 2016, Glacier Park Collection launched a composting initiative that achieves each of these objectives. Through a collaboration with the locals at Whitefish's Dirt Rich Composting, this successful food waste management program has reduced Glacier Park's environmental impact, supported the local economy and contributed to the creation of an eco-friendly, premium soil enhancing product. Here's a primer on what we've done—and why we've done it.

What is compost?

Compost is a mixture comprised of decomposing organic kitchen and yard waste. Think veggie, fruit and meat trimmings, leftover food, as well as leaves, flowers and grass clippings. Carbon rich paper products, like takeaway containers made from renewable plant-based materials and paper towel used for food preparation, are also ideal for a compost bin. Compost is neither soil nor dirt. It's a healthy, nutrient-rich and holistic soil amendment that can greatly improve so many parts of the soil stewardship process. Organic waste becomes a bolt of nutrition for future produce growth. It's a cycle.

a person holds a handful of compost

What are the benefits of composting?

Composting is an extremely energy-efficient recycling solution. The benefits are three fold. Composting kitchen and yard waste frees up space in landfills. Organic materials sent to landfills will break down without the presence of oxygen. This produces methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. By choosing to compost, we can reduce the production of methane, and the final product is a nutrient-rich soil amendment that provides growers with a holistic, sustainable way to improve soil quality while managing pests and weeds. Talk about a win-win!

How and where are we successfully participating in the composting program?

At the West Glacier Café, Mercantile and Belton Chalet in West Glacier Village, the Snowgoose Grill and St Mary Grocery Store (at the east entrance to Glacier Park) and at Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish, we are working with Dirt Rich Composting to send our organic waste back to the Earth. At Glacier Park Lodge, we manage food waste with a special machine—nicknamed 'Chester'—which breaks down organic materials into a liquid form.

A woman with a clipboard measures the temperature of compost

Who is our composting partner?

Dirt Rich Composting, located just a half-hour from Grouse Mountain Lodge, collects all the organic waste from our Glacier Park businesses. Owned and operated by Whitefish local Alissa LaChance, Dirt Rich is on a mission to educate gardeners, farmers and the greater community about the importance of soil fertility and holistic agricultural practices. Their team picks up our organic waste and return it to their facility where it is turned into a usable, healthy and sustainable resource.

Prior to Dirt Rich, there wasn’t an option for diverting food waste in the valley. By offering individuals and businesses a simple and affordable solution for processing food waste, Dirt Rich has created new jobs, reduced local landfill waste and provided home owners and growers with a sustainable nutrient rich soil enhancing product. We are proud to work with them!

How much organic waste is composted?

In 2019, Grouse Mountain Lodge collected 6,060 gallons of organic waste for composting. Our Glacier Park restaurants and properties jointly contributed 10,200 gallons. That’s a combined total of approximately 57 tons of organic material that was used to create premium quality compost, rather than entering the landfill.

A pile of compost that has just been dumped from a truck

“The simple answer is that it’s the right thing to do,” says Nicole Smith, Glacier Park’s Director of Food and Beverage.

Why did we launch a composting programming?

“The simple answer is that it’s the right thing to do,” says Nicole Smith, Glacier Park’s Director of Food and Beverage. “It’s a feel-good project that reduces the amount of garbage we send to the landfill, supports a local sustainability-minded company, and benefits food producers and gardeners throughout the valley. We’re excited about this ongoing partnership and will continue to seek out further opportunities to lesson our carbon footprint in Glacier National Park, Whitefish and beyond.”

As our friends at Dirt Rich Composting say, it's all about completing the cycle. Our organic waste helps growers enhance and improve their production in gardens across the Whitefish and Glacier area. What goes around comes back around, right here in northwestern Montana.

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