Dining Services is one of the largest departments on campus. Responsible for providing more than 600 meals per day plus more than 40 catered events each month, Dining Services generates more cardboard, cans, and plastic waste than any department on campus. Pre-consumer waste and post-consumer waste (uneaten food) are also areas of great concern. Ever cognizant of our obligation to protect the environment, your Dining Services has launched a proactive sustainability program, Blue & Gold Dining Goes Green.
Reducing Food Waste
- Composting of pre-consumer vegetable waste: Dining Services has teamed with the Grounds department to compost our vegetable trimmings, providing 25 to 50 pounds of trimmings per day. The compost will be used to fertilize our shrub beds on campus, thereby eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Post-consumer food waste has been a significant problem, with uneaten food being thrown into the garbage which is then transported to the landfill. Last Fall Semester, 210 pounds of food was being scraped off the students' plate per meal, so we launched a program to encourage taking less food on their first trip through the serving line and going back for seconds if they were still hungry. When we weighed the food waste Spring Semester, the food waste had dropped to 183 lbs, a reduction of 12.9%. Here's how we did it:
- Gave "Clean Plate Award" certificates to students who ate all their food and had clean plates. They could get free beverages or fries in the Muskie Grill or a free beverage in The Daily Grind. About 300 "Clean Plate Awards" were given out.
- Created "Blue & Gold Dining Goes Green" posters to remind students of the food waste going into the landfill and the energy cost to transport it there. These posters also suggested other energy-savings practices like turning off computer monitors and lights when not in use.
- Put table tents on all the dining room tables reminding guests to clean their plates or not take more food than they could eat. There are 40 different signs emphasizing the need to protect our environment through sensible, easy to follow sustainability practices.
- Created Sustainability Project 09-10 table tents to explain how our sustainability program works.
- Sponsored a contest for students to guess how much edible food and beverages were discarded with $100, $75, and $50 Muskie Money gift certificates as prizes. (The amount of food waste was equal to a 1/4 lb. hamburger with toppings and a small bag of chips per person per meal. Beverage waste equaled 15 gallons per day.)
- Working with the student Dining Services Advisory Board, Dining Services management is looking into additional waste reduction programs such as returning to served instead of self-serve entrees or "trayless dining." On many college campuses across the country, trayless dining has proven to be a very effective method of reducing water consumption, energy use to run the dish machine, and excessive food waste, all goals of our Blue & Gold Dining Goes Green sustainability project.
Reducing Energy Use
- Lights in the dining rooms and the dishwashing machine are turned off between meals.
- New equipment purchases must meet Energy Star standards.
- We purchase locally produced food whenever possible.
- We minimize the purchases of products shipped internationally to reduce energy costs associated with long distance shipping.
Student and Academic Collaboration
- Dining Services has been represented on the student-based EcoFriends Committee at every meeting and is an active participant in projects such as providing recycle bins for the 2009 Homecoming Tailgate Picnic.
- We work in conjunction with the academic Core III program to supplement those sustainability projects.
Reducing Landfill Waste
- We use washable china, glasses, and flatware in Blue & Gold Dining to reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill.
- Dining Services puts all cardboard and paper in the recycling dumpster and provides a recycling bin for cans and bottles.
- Reusable cloth bags are available in the Muskie Mart to minimize the use of plastic bags for groceries.
- Eliminated polystyrene packaging in 2008 in the Muskie Grill and now use biodegradable paper packaging.
Protecting the Environment
- The Director of Dining Services has been on a steering committee of the National Association of College & University Food Services to develop a Sustainability Guide for use in college dining service operations nationwide.
- We follow the recommendations of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Sustainable Seafood Guide when purchasing fish.
- Dining Services works with its suppliers to reduce exposure to antibiotics, pesticides, and other contaminants while maintaining a fiscally responsible dining operation.