Kendall Singleton expands UVA garden, composting


 A few weeks ago, Kendall Singleton returned home from an unplanned trip to Earlysville’s Panorama Farms to find she was down to the last of her weekly community supported agriculture (CSA) produce—onions, basil and garlic from Nelson County, but no centerpiece. A quick shopping trip later, and she had a bit of Twin Oaks tofu and green beans from the Local Food Hub soaking up curry powder and keeping the rest of her local veggies company.

Kendall Singleton, UVA Dining’s sustainability coordinator, says students and staff alike took to reusable coffee cups, and a student-run pilot program called “Greening Greek” placed reusable takeout containers in a sorority last semester.

“It went nicely with the bottle of Viognier I had picked up on a recent wine tasting venture at First Colony,” she told C-VILLE in an e-mail.

One year into her job as sustainability coordinator for UVA Dining Services, and Singleton seems to run her office like she runs her kitchen: Know what resources you have on hand, and know where to find the rest. As a result, UVA is ready to give her more. 

In April, the UVA Board of Visitors approved tuition and dining hall fee increases for the 2010-2011 school year to cover potential expenses associated with “enhancing dining programs including sustainability initiatives.” Singleton says the sustainable dining program aims to “enhance the connection between nutrition and environmental health in the dining halls” and “ramp up our outreach efforts to the greater student body.”

These go along with what Singleton refers to as the “usual suspects”—composting and green dining. Last year, UVA Dining added Newcomb Hall to its composting roster; combined with Observatory Hill’s dining hall, the move now steers roughly five tons of waste each week to a fertile future instead of landfills. And when Singleton started her job in 2009, UVA food that met these “green dining” guidelines was roughly 15 percent of all dining hall chow. Now, the amount is 17 percent and moving towards Singleton’s goal of 20 percent.

And UVA’s community garden may bump that percentage up a point or two. Singleton says that the garden, planted in 2009 and tended by students, will nearly double its current 400-square-foot lot, thanks to the addition of a piece of land located behind Gilmer Hall, a site considered for the original lot. And, in what Singleton calls a “tidy example of closing the loop,” the new garden plot was fertilized with waste from UVA dining that was turned into compost at Panorama. 

“At a school this size, making changes can feel intimidating or overwhelming, but the fortunate flip side of that challenge is that individual small changes or differences add up really quickly,” says Singleton. “The ripple effect is quite amazing.”