With an undergraduate population at Boston University of over 15,000 students, providing food that is both healthy and sustainable is no easy feat. The Dining Services Sustainability Program works to meet this challenge in a campus wide effort to reduce BU’s environmental impact through informed purchasing decisions, smart food choices, and waste reduction and diversion. Through these efforts to make sustainable dining choices, BU has earned three four-star ratings and one three-star rating from the Green Restaurant Association. BU is the first university to receive four-star ratings from the GRA. The awards come with an acknowledgment of BU’s progress in water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable furnishing and building materials, sustainable food, energy, disposables, and chemical and pollution reduction.
Dining Services works alongside departments including Facilities Management & Planning and Sourcing and Procurement as well as recycling and composting companies like Save That Stuff, in order to identify more environmentally friendly products and more sustainable practices. Through this collaboration, BU is able to incorporate sustainability into Dining Services on a variety of fronts. For example, BU purchases many food products from local farms and growers. The University buys organic food products whenever economically feasible, and all eggs served on campus have been cage free since September 2012. In addition, all seafood is purchased according to guidelines set by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Marine Stewardship Council.
Besides food purchasing, Dining Services is also committed to diverting waste from landfills. For instance, in 2012, Dining Services recycled 252 tons of waste and composted a total of 576 tons of food waste and organic materials.
Consumer Choices/Food Lifestyles
In addition to caring about the source of the food available on campus, Dining Services is committed to making food available to support different lifestyle choices and consumer decisions. Some ways they do this include:
- Providing vegan and vegetarian meal options in all dining halls on campus
- Promotes sustainable food choices with Make a Difference Monday, a day reserved for local, organic and sustainable foods with a lower carbon footprint
- Offering fair trade, organic, and locally-roasted coffee at all residential dining halls, the GSU Union Court, Rize, the Law School Café, 575 Café, and Healthy Blends (fair trade varieties are also available for sale at Starbucks)
- Using cage-free eggs all across campus
- Partnering with Ward’s Berry Farm CSA (community supported agriculture)
- Supporting a weekly farmers’ market from September through October outside the GSU featuring products from area vendors
- Boston University is also committed to make smart purchasing decisions when it comes to food, tableware, cleaning products, and appliances. Dining Services demonstrates this commitment by:
- Buying locally-grown and locally-processed food from 45 farms and 130 different producers to reduce fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions
- Requesting that franchisees use the most environmentally friendly disposable tableware, including those made from compostable materials or that are recyclable as an alternative
- Expecting franchisees to allow Dining Services to use proper receptacles and procedures for the collection of compostables and recyclables
- Purchasing and using green cleaning products in all dining locations – EcoLab products are designed to lower energy and water consumption, as well as waste production, without compromising effectiveness
- Purchasing ENERGY STAR rated kitchen equipment when replacements are due
Waste Diversion and Reduction
Waste reduction and diversion are crucial elements of the sustainability efforts of Dining Services. In 2008, Dining Services eliminated the use of trays in all residential dining halls which resulted in a reduction in water use by an estimated 35,000 gallons per week as well as a reduction in food waste by about 30%. Some of the other efforts Dining Services makes towards reducing and diverting waste include:
- Composting 98% of pre-consumer waste
- Composting 95% of post-consumer waste
- Bringing collected food waste to local industrial composting facilities to be resold as a soil amendment
- Recycling cooking oil locally at a rate of 4,800 gallons per year
- Ensuring that nearly all disposable containers and utensils across campus are made with compostable materials such as corn, potatoes, and recycled milk cartons
- Guaranteeing that all catered staff events are Zero Waste and offering a Zero Waste pickup option for drop-off orders and non-staffed events
- Incentivizing reusable dishware use through a $.25 discount for using refillable coffee mugs at all campus retail locations
- Offering a $.25 discount for using reusable to-go containers at the GSU – students can purchase the container from any cashier at a one-time cost of $4.00 and receive a $.25 discount on their meal with every use. Students return the dirty container after use and pick up a clean one each time they purchase a meal from the GSU.
Dining Services works makes an effort to give back to the community in sustainable ways such as:
- Donating food on a daily basis to several local food banks and shelters through BU’s Community Service Center’s Student Food Rescue (SFR)
Planning and Management
Dining Services formed a Sustainability Committee in 2007. The committee meets on a monthly basis and is comprised of staff from Dining Services, Facilities Management & Planning, Auxiliary Services and sustainability@BU.
Sabrina Pashtanis Boston University’s Sustainability Coordinator for Dining Services. She oversees sustainability initiatives within the dining program. The sustainability coordinator works closely with other departments on campus in order to promote efficiency and sustainable practices.