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3 easy ways to sustain sustainability

Photograph: Shutterstock

The inadvertent production of hundreds of pounds of garbage and food waste annually has long been a constant for university and healthcare foodservice operations. What’s new is the deliberate focus on reducing the amount and impact of this waste. Yet in order for any operation to sustain their efforts in reducing trash and being environmentally responsible, it’s crucial to find a practical approach that’s fiscally responsible, too.  

Thinking strategically about incorporating sustainability can help university and healthcare foodservice operators save resources, become more efficient and do their part in being mindful of their environmental impact. Here are three cost-effective initiatives operators can explore to create a new culture of making a positive impact on the environment.

1. Create an advisory committee

The addition of an advisory committee on green initiatives provides a direct understanding of what students and employees are most interested in seeing changed. The committee can make recommendations on recycling, such as setting up recycling trash bin stations to make recycling as easy as possible, and composting to minimize the amount of food waste sent to landfills.

For example, in 2010, students at Goshen College in Goshen, Ind., began composting food waste from the college’s dining hall. On a typical weekday during the semester, about 75 to 100 pounds of food waste is produced. At the end of the day, a student volunteer spends 15 minutes collecting the food waste from dining hall receptacles and dumping the contents into the campus compost bin—a large insulated wooden box located behind the dining hall dumpsters. Woodchips—received free from local tree trimmers—are added as mulch and combined with the food waste to introduce bacteria, prevent odors and help break up the pile. The cycle is completed when the compost is returned to dining services to be used as a natural fertilizer in a small garden.

2. Start a community garden

Sometimes being green means getting one’s hands dirty and starting a vegetable garden. For example, three stories above Boston Medical Center’s power plant, a 2,658-square-foot farm with more than 25 crops thrives. The farm not only provides fresh, local produce to hospitalized patients, cafeterias, the Demonstration Kitchen and Preventive Food Pantry, but also is part of the hospital’s commitment to going green. The rooftop farm reduces the hospital’s carbon footprint, increases green space and reduces energy use, including the energy required to transport food. If a rooftop garden is not within budget considerations, start small with a few tomato plants and herbs in pots—every little bit helps.

3. Use biodegradable products

Disposable foam cups and food containers have always offered food and beverage service operators several important advantage: They’re economical, they keep hot food hot and cold drinks cold and they’re lightweight. And, they’re easy to store and work with.

Though top performance isn’t always enough; many operators need to source products that keep food and drinks at the right temperature for a longer period of time while also being environmentally friendly. One manufacturer answering the call is WinCup. They’re the first to offer Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam cups that biodegrade.* These have all the same benefits of traditional foam cups, but are engineered to biodegrade* —in fact the company’s Vio® brand cups biodegrade* 92% over four years. And, they’re the lowest cost disposable cup of all the green products on the market today. Also available are Vio® biodegradable* straws, food containers and lids.

By implementing one or more of these strategies, noncommercial foodservice operators can set in motion sustainable initiatives that can grow for years to come.

*Cups biodegrade 92% over 4 years, lids biodegrade 86.8% over 7.9 years, straws biodegrade 88.5% over 7 years. Tested under conditions that simulate both wetter and biologically active landfills using the ASTM D5511 test. Wetter or biologically active landfills may not exist in your area. The stated rate and extent of degradation do not mean that the product will continue to decompose.

This post is sponsored by WinCup

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