2012 Environmental Study: More operators converting cooking oil to biofuel

Recycling and waste reduction top list.

Almost all respondents to our fourth Environmental Study (92%) have implemented some kind of environmentally friendly program. Converting used cooking oil to biofuel saw the largest jump in practice from last year’s survey. For those operators who haven’t started sustainability measures, cost, convenience and administrative support were listed as the reasons. More than a third—37%—said they don’t promote their environmental efforts, an eight-percentage-point increase from last year’s study. Following are the results of our study.

Garden’s bounty

Next year, Watertown Regional Medical Center in Wisconsin will overhaul its dining program, with moves to patient room service and scratch cooking. In anticipation of that, the department is making other changes, such as producing all soups in house. One big switch has been the addition of an 11,000-square-foot campus garden, which Justin Johnson, executive chef, calls the centerpiece of the department’s face-lift. “We wanted to source more locally and we knew food safety was an issue because we have to buy from an approved vendor,” he says. “Why not skip the middle man and grow for ourselves?” Johnson is currently getting around 75% of his produce from the garden. Johnson hopes the next progression will be a greenhouse to extend the growing season into winter.

 

Eliminating bottled beverages

Many non-commercial operations are cutting bottled beverages in an effort to reduce waste. Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Ariz., recently joined others in the National Parks Service, including Grand Canyon National Park, to stop selling bottled water and soda. The park says that, while it is currently recycling these products, eliminating them completely would reduce up to 40% of what is currently being recycled, or about 15% of the park’s total waste stream. The park is installing water bottle filling stations for thirsty visitors.

Local connection

“I’m in the breadbasket of the Central Valley,” says Scott Soiseth, child nutrition director for Turlock Unified School District in California. “We have a lot of small farms nearby. We just couldn’t get connected with them. The farmers didn’t know how to sell to us, and I didn’t have the time to work it out. We needed that third party.”

The third party is Ag Link, a web-based service that connects farmers with school districts. For a 4% administrative fee, Soiseth can browse the produce of nearby farms, which also pay a 4% fee. Farmers update the site with price information and photos of the available items, and with the click of a mouse Soiseth can purchase whatever produce he wants. All billing is done through Ag Link, which also handles food safety and GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) training. Soiseth says he’s currently purchasing 30% of his produce locally, but through Ag Link’s services he expects that to increase to nearly 70%.

Oil to biodiesel

The dining services department at the University of North Texas has been recycling its used cooking oil for some time, but dining services wanted to “make the oil into something that could become a reusable resource,” according to Ken Botts, special projects manager. This semester a local company began picking up used cooking oil and converting it to biodiesel. The oil was previously being used to make items like makeup. Another change was made in the collection process. Previously, Botts says, employees would dump the used oil in a bucket and a company would pick it up. Now, it’s a closed system with no chance for spillage. The grease is collected from the fryer using a vacuum hose. From there the grease is stored in a container until the company collects the grease via vacuum hose.

Schools tackle trash

“My first year the biggest complaint from parents wasn’t the quality of food or how long kids waited in line. It was that we were serving kids on Styrofoam trays,” says Ron Adams, foodservice director for 7,000-student Portland Public Schools in Maine. It took three years, but Adams has dumped the foam trays for a paperboard tray that can be recycled. Adams didn’t want to just eliminate the trays. He wanted to address the entire waste issue. A composting program was implemented at three schools last year, with more coming on board this year. The district has diverted 48 tons of food waste to be composted. Trash pick-ups for the district have been cut in half.

Food donation

The University of Colorado at Boulder has a comprehensive sustainability program, including recycling and composting. Its newest initiative is donating leftover food to homeless shelters. A pilot program was started this summer in which dining services staff freeze leftover food according to food safety guidelines. That food is given to homeless shelters. The department also donates leftover grab-and-go items such as sandwiches to another organization that distributes the meals to area shelters. 

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
sam kass peter romeo

We’ve heard it time and again—millennials are extremely conscious about what they eat. They want to know what is in their food, where it is from, how it was made and more. And, as we’re learning, Gen Zers are even more aware and information-demanding about the food they eat than their older counterparts.

Hitting those higher-quality food standards is no easy feat. But it’s becoming a must, said chef Sam Kass—known for being the White House chef for the Obamas, a senior White House policy advisor on nutrition policy while he cooked, and currently the senior food analyst for NBC News...

Sponsored Content
chicken veggies recipes

From Tyson Food Service.

With operators becoming increasingly strapped for time and labor, it’s a strain to prepare every aspect of a menu item back-of-house or keep the menu populated with a variety of options. While it doesn’t mean they have to cut corners when developing new items, operators can use more versatile items that are simple enough to apply across the menu to save on labor and cost as well as be more efficient.

With versatile proteins, operators can increase menu opportunities without kitchen complexity, and drive new customer traffic or increase the number...

Industry News & Opinion

An audit into Kennesaw State University’s dining services revealed the university accrued roughly $2 million from off-campus students paying for meal plans as part of their semester fees, according to a report by Fox 5 Atlanta .

Meal plans at the Kennesaw, Ga., university are automatically assessed to students whether they live on campus or not. The university does not refund unused meals, draining the pockets of commuter students each semester.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we pay all this tuition and then we’re here paying another big fee,” commuter student Emmanuel...

Industry News & Opinion

As part of a 10-year contract to run Eastern Michigan University’s foodservice, Chartwells will invest $5 million in the Ypsilanti, Mich., university, as well as provide it with $18 million in capital improvements, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press .

The university’s board of regents approved the contract on Tuesday, citing the new revenue as an opportunity to expand and improve campus foodservice. EMU’s website indicates the partnership will allow for more student input as well as the introduction of food trucks and improved technology.

“The primary reason...

FSD Resources