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Profile: Eric Drake

Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010

As a man who produces his own food (eighty percent of food he consumes was grown or raised on his farm), Eric Drake has clear standards for the quality of food he and his staff serve at the Adobe Lodge. Changes Drake has instated during his first first four months at Adobe Lodge have signaled improvements in nutrition, efficiency, and quality. Thus far, these changes include replacing butter balls found in the bread baskets, which are more processed and use more packaging, with the same slabs of butter used in the kitchen for cooking. This butter is all-natural and unsalted, and extra packaging is eliminated. Diners will also notice that the small, individual containers of coffee creamers have been abandoned for a pitcher filled with milk or cream instead. Not only does the new creamer set-up provide a more natural, less processed product and cut down on waste, but it also is significantly less expensive than purchasing the individual creamers, says Drake.

Drake's operational changes extend beyond the view of Adobe Lodge patrons. In the back offices, Drake encourages his staff to use natural light instead of electric lighting during the day. He says his office is lit completely by natural light--Drake rearranged his office furniture to maximize the amount of sunlight entering through the windows. Many of the Adobe Lodge's initiatives have come from Drake in the form of encouragement and education. Rather than mandating certain sustainability initiatives, such as composting and promoting the Eco-Tray (SCU's reusable “to-go” container), Drake has taken steps to ensure his staff are aware of these programs and understand how they work. He hopes, and has seen, that informing his staff makes them more likely to take action to compost or encourage customers to use the Eco-Tray.

When asked about his future goals for promoting sustainability and achieving sustainable food procurement at the Adobe Lodge, Drake cites training as paramount. By modeling sustainable behavior and educating his staff, Drake believes the paradigm shift necessary to achieving sustainability will be within grasp. In Drake’s opinion, sustainability takes the form of a particular mindset, which will take some folks quite a while to embrace.

In promoting sustainability within his role at the Adobe Lodge, Drake emphasizes a cradle-to-cradle approach to food procurement and disposal. Drake has aimed to go beyond Bon Appetit’s standards for sustainable food procurement by sourcing even more food from local farmers. As a farmer himself, Drake understands and feels strongly about the value of forming relationships with the producers of the food we eat. Drake is also concerned with waste disposal: according to him, "We are doing a sustainability “disservice” if we do not dispose properly of food that was sustainably raised and purchased." At Adobe, this primarily means composting, followed by recycling, and ultimately landfill waste. Waste diversion at the Adobe Lodge has required creative thinking. First, due to the age of the building (the Adobe Lodge is the oldest building on campus, parts of it dating back to the early nineteenth century), space is an issue. Drake has worked with Facilities and the Office of Sustainability to find containers and space appropriate for composting, recycling, and landfill waste collection. Furthermore, Drake reports that Adobe’s operations have been growing, both in-house and in its external catering services. With increased business has come an increased volume of compostable and recyclable waste, making waste segregation and disposal even more important.

Next time you visit the Adobe Lodge, take a moment to pause during the hustle and bustle of lunch hour. You may notice Drake or one of the Adobe Lodge staff members serving take-out in an Eco Tray, or a patron buttering bread with no wrapper to throw away. Be sure also to savor the flavor of your meal--most likely its ingredients came from a not-too-distant farm. Kudos to Drake and the staff at the Adobe Lodge for developing a more sustainable faculty dining experience, further promoting a culture of sustainability at SCU.

By Hannah Slocum, '11, Sustainability Intern

Tags: Campus Operations, Food, Profiles



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