Ark owners land state's top environmental award

Laurie Davies, left, manager of the Department of Ecology solid waste program, presents a plaque to Nanci Main and Jimella Lucas at an Ocean Park Chamber of Commerce meeting. TIMM COLLINS photo

NAHCOTTA - The Ark Restaurant has received the state's Environmental Excellence Award for reducing and recycling restaurant waste.

Jimella Lucas and Nanci Main accepted the award from the Department of Ecology at a meeting of the Ocean Park Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

"Jimella and Nanci are building a sustainable business that preserves and uses resources so those resources will be here in the future," said Laurie Davies, a manager in the Department of Ecology's solid-waste program. "We live in a world where it is easy to throw things away. The Ark owners do just the opposite - they reduce their trash, and then squeeze benefits from the leftovers."

Lucas and Main began their waste-reducing efforts by recycling glass, plastic and cardboard. They have since expanded into composting, saving their restaurant food waste in bins, where it decomposes and turns into fertilizer. The compost goes onto their organic garden, where crops are grown to serve their guests.

"We pay to do this. We pay someone to pick up all the products. We pay employees to sort through and take the extra steps," said Main. "You have to train and teach your staff to do that, so our commitment means we are willing to put money out to get it done."

Neighbors take away some of the food waste and use it for their own composting and for animal feed. One neighbor re-uses non-meat food waste to feed his flock of laying hens, yielding eggs and chicken compost for his own garden.

"There is one person that is not here that I would like to acknowledge and that is Marie Carter. She started this with us," Lucas said. "Larkin (Stentz) from Green Angle Garden and Larry Warnberg for being a steward as far as the Earth is concerned. You just can't turn your face away from it because it's all our responsibility to take care of our Earth."

In the end, the restaurant saves money on its trash bill and helps reduce waste sent to the landfill. Their compost is an environmentally friendly product that promotes soil health and food production.

Davies said the restaurant's effort is a step toward a "closed-loop" business in which resources are not discarded, but re-used for new benefits. This is a concept the state is trying to promote with businesses in Washington to drastically reduce and even erase waste.

"It is a lot easier just to dump something in a garbage can, but you have to know that for the last 24 years every person who has worked for us has learned what it means to compost," said Main.

Davies said a few local pilot programs in the state are testing collection systems for food waste, but none in this area.

"That's why it's great to see Nanci and Jimella taking matters into their own hands, leading the way," she said.

The Department of Ecology issues the Environmental Excellence Award to individuals, businesses and organizations that have shown leadership, innovation or extraordinary service in protecting, improving or cleaning up the environment.

Past recipients include the city of Vancouver, Spokane School District No. 81 and Intercity Transit in Olympia.

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