Goin’ Green in Marathon County

Written by Jessica Meadows

Initiatives began last year to reduce paper use in Marathon County Government. The goal is to reduce print copies made by County employees by 50% (see Brad Karger’s Going Paperless). Those “greening” efforts are well underway.

In new developments, North Central Health Care (NCHC), the Marathon County Health Department, and Bridge Community Health Clinic have partnered to add additional “green” efforts to reduce Marathon County’s impact on the environment. The three organizations entered a partnership that will accomplish some “green” results. With the launch of a new composting program, these efforts will result in several outcomes:

  • Reduce waste going to landfills
  • Reuse food waste to create compost
  • Support use and growth of local community gardens

The Benefits of Composting

Composting is nature’s way of recycling. Both food and yard waste can be broken down and used as food for plants. Composting has several great benefits in gardens:

  • Enriches soil, helping retain moisture
  • Suppresses plant diseases
  • Encourages the beneficial bacteria and fungi to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material
Compost bin at Bridge Community Health Clinic Garden in Wausau. (Photo courtesy of Bridge Community Health Clinic Garden’s Facebook page.)

How Much Food Are We Talking About?

In November, Food Services Director Jen Gorman worked with the team at NCHC, the Marathon County Health Department, and Bridge Community Health Clinic Garden to devise a composting plan. Compost buckets are being stored in a locked area behind NCHC Food Services, where food waste will be deposited daily by both NCHC and the Marathon County Health Department.

weighing scrap food items
Kristy Lemmer, NCHC Food Services, documents the weight of scrap food items that will become compost. (Photo courtesy of NCHC.)

With over 250 nursing home residents, inpatient mental and behavioral health patients, and hundreds of employees and visitors to the Wausau Campus Cafeteria on a daily basis, there is plenty of opportunity to utilize food waste in a positive way.

In just one breakfast for residents and patients at NCHC and Mount View Care Center,
over 250 eggs are cracked and served — all of the shells can be used in compost. (Photo courtesy of NCHC.)

In the first 2 months of composting, 300 pounds of waste and scrap food has been collected for composting!

Compost is stored in buckets awaiting the weekly pickup by Bridge Community Health Clinic Garden Coordinator Paul Kage. (Photo courtesy of NCHC.)

It is then delivered to the three Wausau Community Urban Gardens in Marathon County. The result? Great compost to utilize in gardens that will increase crop yields and positively benefit those in our community who utilize the community gardens.

It’s a win all the way around!

 What Food Waste Makes for Great Compost?

Kitchen and food waste make great compost. Some of the top items that NCHC will be adding to the compost buckets will include:

  • Egg shells
  • Vegetable and fruit scraps
  • Tea bags, coffee grounds, and filters
  • Corn cobs
  • Breads
  • Leftover food — not too oily or salty though!
Compost this winter at Bridge Community Health Clinic. (Photo courtesy of Paul Kage, Bridge Community Health Clinic Community Garden Coordinator.)

Are you interested in composting yourself? There are plenty of resources online for starting. For a full list of the do’s and don’ts of composting materials, visit http://makedirtnotwaste.org/sites/default/files/whatcanicompostbackyard.pdf

NCHC Didn’t Stop There . . .

In addition to composting, NCHC decided to look further into what “going green” meant. That process led to a change for the NCHC Wausau Campus Cafeteria and Food Services. Previously, we used traditional white Styrofoam containers, cups, plates, and plastic drinking straws. But now NCHC will be replacing all Styrofoam with a new biodegradable product.

Vio, a biodegradable foam cup. (Photo courtesy of viofoam.com.)

This “green foam” is made of expandable polystyrene foam with biodegradable properties. Materials are 85–92%  biodegradable in 4 to 7 years, depending on the item. Traditional Styrofoam is not biodegradable at all — 0%!

According to a report from Sciencing.com, it could take up to a MILLION YEARS for Styrofoam to decompose. Additionally, to-go containers for meals are also being replaced with paper containers, which are bio-degradable as well.

How Many Materials Will Be Bio-Degradable at NCHC?

NCHC Food Service operations use a variety of disposable serving materials each year in Mount View Care Center, Inpatient Mental and Behavioral Health Programs, and the Wausau Campus Cafeteria:

  • Up to 20,000 varying size plates per year
  • Up to 200,000 drinking cups per year
  • Up to 12,000 drinking straws per year

All of these items will be replaced with the new biodegradable “green foam.” The new line of containers, cups, plates, and straws do come with an increased price tag; however, the end result is so much better for our County and is a much more responsible choice overall for the future.

Compost with biodegradable straws at Bridge Community Health Clinic. (Photo courtesy of Paul Kage, Bridge Community Health Clinic Community Garden Coordinator.)

Partnership & Commitment to a Green Life in Marathon County

It takes partnership, commitment, and a desire to make lasting change that results in a greener and healthier life in Marathon County. We can take pride knowing our County programs and community partners are actively engaging in and searching for more techniques and practices to create a healthier, greener future for the residents of Marathon County.

Jessica_MeadowsJessica Meadows

Communications & Marketing Coordinator  |  North Central Health Care

As the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at North Central Health Care (NCHC), Jessica Meadows is passionate about being able to use her creative talents to connect people to healthcare, resources, and networking that will impact their life in a positive way. Prior to joining NCHC, she was a Creative Director and leader at a marketing agency in the Stevens Point area. With almost 20 years’ experience in print, web, social media, video, radio, and public relations, it was important for her to connect back to her roots here in the Wausau area, where she and her husband raise their two young children. When she’s not busy at an event or volunteering, she enjoys playing sports, coaching, biking, traveling, and exploring the outdoors.  Email Jessica Meadows.

You might also like…

Marathon_County_LogoPlease email our Editorial Board with your comments, suggestions, and article ideas.

And if you spot a typo or an inaccuracy, please contact us so we can fix it. Thanks!