Delaware North defines innovation as anything that “creates value or solves a problem” – and when a problem befell Shenandoah National Park earlier this year, hard work and creativity led to an innovative solution that checked both boxes.

On the first day of the New Year, Delaware North’s compost partner at Shenandoah National Park closed down its operations. Due to the remote location and the distance between the Delaware North-operated facilities at the park, the team at Shenandoah could not find another compost organization to join as a partner. And there was also a matter of removing manure from horse stables.

 In researching options, the team at Shenandoah — where Delaware North operates food, beverage and lodging for the National Park Service — discovered Green Mountain Technologies (GMT) near Seattle. GMT manufactures the Earth Flow, an in-vessel composting unit. This system uses aeration and an automated auger in a sealed vessel to expedite the composting process and yield a very consistent end product.

Seattle-based Green Mountain Technologies’ intermodel Earth Flow, which is about the size of a shipping container, is expected to help composting efforts at Shenandoah National Park.

The typical Earth Flow is a 20-by-8-foot steel tub with a greenhouse dome over top, but that model would not work for Shenandoah because of wildlife intrusion, especially bears. Instead, the team, led by Environmental Manager Scott Stillwagon, purchased an intermodal Earth Flow, which is the same system but housed in an intermodal shipping container. This unit can easily handle the food waste generated onsite (both preparation and post-consumer scraps) and the manure generated by Shenandoah’s stables. Other compostable items — including shredder paper, sawdust, compostable serving ware and soiled cardboard — will also be included.

The benefits of this system, the first ever purchased by Delaware North, are numerous. It requires very little manpower; it’s energy-efficient; and it’s highly effective.

The Earth Flow unit reduces the composting process from an average of six months to 14-21 days. It also allows Delaware North’s operations at the park to compost more items, and to take a significant step forward in its goal of producing zero landfill waste.

All waste that enters the Earth Flow will be weighed and tracked. The resulting compost will be used to landscape Delaware North property, given to the National Park Service for use in its nurseries, and the company will also be donating a large amount to local non-profit farms. Any leftover compost can be sold or donated.

Groundbreaking occurred on May 31, and the Earth Flow unit is expected to be operational by late summer.


Published: June 9, 2017