Sustainable Dining Report 2018

What we have done and what is to come

Dining Hall inside West Campus. Photo by Mike Spencer for Boston University Photography.

Since 2013, BU Dining has published an annual report highlighting achievements of each academic year and benchmarking progress in reaching our sustainable food and dining goals. The 2018 Sustainability Report will feature milestones for local food, third party certified products, low carbon menus, reusable containers, and waste diversion. While the official report is being finalized, we are sharing some of the data and takeaways with you here.

We believe a sustainable food strategy considers the environmental, social and economic impacts of all food and beverage purchases as well as products that directly support the operation, including the use of disposable/compostable utensils, tableware, and napkins.  In 2014 we set a goal to achieve 20% sustainable food by 2018, and we challenged our team with a new goal of 25% by 2020. BU Dining is pleased to report that we have achieved our 2020 goal one year ahead of schedule.

Local sourcing

BU Dining will continue its efforts to source produce and proteins that are humane, sustainable, organic, or certified by a third party. An overarching principle includes sourcing food locally as practical, from within a 250-mile radius of the Charles River Campus, by partnering with local farmers, producers and distributors that are capable of consistently meeting the University’s pricing, volume, quality and sustainability standards. Serving local food also shrinks the emissions associated with transportation.

Want to increase the amount of nutrient-dense, seasonally delicious local food in your diet? Consider joining our annual summer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share, which provides you with a weekly box of local produce. The program begins in June and runs through the end of October, and you can pick up your CSA share at the George Sherman Union Farmer’s Market.

Low-carbon dining

The largest portion of food emissions comes from production, which accounts for approximately 80% of emissions. Plant-based foods have the lowest production emissions, followed by seafood, dairy and meat. Every week, BU Dining promotes a Wholesome Roots low-carbon menu in each of our dining halls. You can participate in Wholesome Roots on Monday at The Fresh Food Co. at Marciano Commons, Tuesday at The Fresh Food Co. at Warren Towers, and Wednesday at The Fresh Food Co. at West Campus. On these days, we feature local seafood and plant-based proteins like tofu, tempeh and seitan. Featuring plant-forward menus helps to curb our environmental footprint, and we hope that you will enjoy our efforts to create unique and delicious dishes each week.

Reducing waste

Recently, teams of researchers, scientists and industry experts compiled a list of the 80 things we can do combat climate change, known as known as Project Drawdown. Reducing food waste ranks as the number three solution, nearly the same impact as onshore wind turbines. BU Dining is committed to reducing food waste in the kitchen and on diners’ plates. Utilizing the Lean Path system at the Fresh Food Co. at West Campus and our own food waste tracking portal, we can measure food waste during preparation in real time. Each time we feature a dish, we improve our recipes to minimize waste and utilize surplus ingredients such as broccoli stems.

This past year we collaborated with the Sustainable Ocean Alliance student group to move away from single-use plastic straws. We moved the self-serve straws behind the register, which decreased straw consumption by 90%! We are now transitioning from bio-plastic straws to paper. You can now find paper straws in the George Sherman Union food court and Starbucks, and the paper straws will soon be available in locations across campus.

When we put sustainable food and environmental practices at the forefront of the Dining Services’ sustainability mission, maintaining our goal of 25% sustainable food should be easy, right? Not exactly. This is where the BU community comes in. By doing your part and exploring our Wholesome Roots menus, taking part in our CSA farm share, going straw-less, opting for reusable to go containers and only taking what you can eat, you are directly supporting our sustainability efforts, helping us lower our carbon footprint, reducing waste and containing costs. Working together on these issues will ensure we maintain our lead as a sustainable campus, and provide a better future for all Terriers to come.