NEWTON, Mass.—Project pilots are usually done on a small scale. But foodservice contractor Unidine Corp. recently used its role as exclusive catering and concessions provider for the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Boston to test a new environmental program it plans to roll out early next year.
During Greenbuild, Unidine served 25,000 attendees and speakers a wide variety of meals featuring organic and locally grown foods, incorporating sustainable and eco-friendly food preparation and disposal, and using packing, paper products, signage and cutlery made from natural, all biodegradable materials.
“This helped us with our new, comprehensive green product that we’ll launch in January,” says Vice President, Marketing Christopher A. Chronis. “It was a trial for pulling it all together.”
The new program will incorporate “all the bits and pieces” from the Greenbuild conference as well as practices already in place. The goal, Chronis says, is to eventually have the new effort be certified “green.”
The effort begins with sustainable food sourcing, including working with community-supported agriculture, serving grass-fed beef, free range and hormone and antibiotic-free poultry and rGBH-free milk, and using trans fat-free oils and baked goods.
Other elements include an eco-friendly disposables and packaging program, using paper supplies with the highest post-consumer recycled content available.
“We’ve focused for a long time on what goes into the kitchen,” says Chronis. “The next growing movement may be what comes out—waste management. We will expand our program for used kitchen oils, recycling them for use as bio-fuels for diesel vehicles and engines. The program includes separating food wastes for composting. We have separate bins for food waste, bottles, cans and biodegradable disposables. Uneaten food is donated to food pantries. By separating food waste, we can inventory excess food and implement source reduction practices to save money.”
At New Milford Hospital in Connecticut, Unidine is already working with local farmers, who will plant and grow specific vegetables for purchase next spring. A local cattle farm supplies ground beef and braising cuts from pasture-raised, grass-fed beef. The same farm provides an Omega 3-rich version of butter. Local cheese producers provide a fresh, quick-cured product that is an alternative to American cheese. Scratch baked goods are outsourced to the local community.
Clients are encouraged to purchase energy-efficient dish machines to maximize energy and water conservation. “We helped one client save 840 gallons of water a day and reduce the detergent need 30% to 40%. We also advocate for the purchase of additional food storage containers, which can result in a 60 percent reduction in the use of aluminum foil.”