2009 Environmental Survey: Paler shade of green

FoodService Director's first Environmental Study find out how operators are tackling sustainability.

Me, personally?: When it comes to the environmental problems facing our planet, opinions vary widely on what is the biggest challenge. For 34% of operators, waste is the most serious problem, while 28% said global warming is our biggest threat. Pollution was a major concern for 26% of respondents, with 17% specifying water pollution and 9% citing air pollution. Other serious challenges included loss of the ozone layer, animal extinction and acid rain.

Whatever their corporate or institutional policies, virtually every operator said they personally take steps to try and make a positive impact on the environment. Eighty-six percent said they do recycling at home, 85% said they try to conserve energy and 69% said they try to conserve water. Driving less was cited by 47% of respondents, buying “green” products by 34%, driving more fuel-efficient vehicles by 32% and buying local/sustainable/organic products by 30%.

Read on for case studies of a university and a hospital system striving to make a positive environmental statement in their institutions and their communities.

Gearing Up Green

A compost program paired with trayless dining and biodegradables is raising UC-Riverside’s environmental profile.

At 18,000-student University of California, Riverside, a new compost waste management program, along with trayless dining and a switch to biodegradable disposals have put the university well on its way to catching up with the state’s mandates for becoming a zero-waste campus. Gustavo Plascencia, general manager of residential dining, says that last June the university came up short on a statewide university goal to divert at least 50% of its waste from the landfill, but a new partnership with a waste management company (Athens Services) will help put them over the mark.

“The state set goals for all UC universities that said they should achieve 50% waste diversion by June of 2008, 75% by June 2012 and zero waste by 2020,” Plascencia says. “So each campus was instructed to look at their operations and come up with a plan to meet these diversion goals. We did not achieve the 50% that we should have last June. We were actually at 42%. So a campus committee has been looking at implementing a new recycling program to help us reach those diversion goals, and last month we hired a waste management company. Athens has helped other UC campuses reach an 87% diversion rate, so they’re already beyond the 75% for 2012. The campus has always looked at food waste as a big part of our landfill waste so if we divert that it will put us over 50% right away.”

The agreement was signed in mid-March, and Plascencia says the department hopes to have the program fully in place by July 1. Currently, Dining Services is working on a plan for how the collection will be done to be most cost-effective.

“We’re going to have some green containers in the kitchen so the staff will put only food waste in those,” Plascencia says. “Once those fill up, they’ll roll them out to the loading dock to a container for only food waste and the goal is to empty those containers daily. Right now we are trying to analyze what it’s going to cost if we have a daily pick-up from Athens, which would get really expensive. So we’re thinking of building a transfer station on campus where we can have a larger container where our own employees can take the food waste from each loading dock. From there, Athens could pick up the larger container and it would be a much lower cost. Athens will then compost the material for us and make it available to use for campus landscaping as well as for use in a new student community garden.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources