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EPA Recognizes Santa Ynez Chumash for Achievements in Zero Waste, Food Recovery

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and the Chumash Casino Resort were recognized this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the 2014 Food Recovery Challenge certificate of achievement for its zero waste efforts.

The certificate of achievement was presented at the Regional Tribal Operations Council meeting on May 13.

Since 2013, as part of its efforts under the Food Recovery Challenge, the Chumash Casino Resort have prevented more than 13 tons of food waste from entering landfills, and increased animal feeding of food scraps to more than 80 tons.

“Through their participation in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge, the Chumash are providing much needed leadership in the Pacific Southwest,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “They are fighting climate change and advancing the cause of zero waste in Santa Barbara County.”

The EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge partners with organizations and businesses to prevent and reduce wasted food. The participants include groups such as grocers, educational institutions, sports and entertainment venues, restaurants and hotels. The program helps participants save money, reduce hunger in communities, and protect the environment by purchasing less, donating extra food and composting.

"It’s great to receive this acknowledgement," said Vincent Armenta, tribal chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “It not only recognizes the wonderful work of our Chumash Casino Resort facilities’ team it also motivates us to continue finding new ways to be environmentally sustainable."

In addition, in 2010 the tribe established a zero waste program implemented by its environmental department that has since coordinated over 100 zero waste tribal events, including events with thousands of participants such as the SCOR Solvang Bike Festival and the tribe's Intertribal Pow Wow. The 2014 Inter-tribal Pow Wow diverted over 7,000 pounds of waste from the landfill to achieve an 87.5 percent diversion rate.

The Chumash Casino Resort has also worked with the EPA and Pacific Gas & Electric to pilot a Greening Tribal Casinos Pollution Prevention training. The resort also reduced its water use by more than 50 percent since 2012 through the use of reclaimed water in its drought-tolerant landscaping, cooling systems and toilets.

The EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region is home to 148 tribal nations with half of Indian Country nationwide concentrated in three states: Indian Country in California, Arizona and Nevada is about equal to the area of the six New England states combined. For more information, click here.

Through innovation and hard work, nearly 900 Food Recovery Challenge participants and endorsers have greatly reduced wasted food. Food pantries, food rescue programs, local food banks, soup kitchens and shelters are benefitting from donations of wholesome and nutritious food — helping feed people, not landfills.

For more information on the Food Recovery Challenge, please click here.

— Nahal Mogharabi is a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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