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San Diego State to be first in nation for green campus dining

This fall, San Diego State will become the first U.S. campus to ‘certify green’ all campus-owned dining locations.

San Diego State University (SDSU) in San Diego, Calif., will reach a unique milestone this fall when it becomes the nation’s first campus in which all the foodservice facilities are certified as green restaurants by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA). 

sdsu tables dining

Thus far, 15 dining locations are designated Certified Green Restaurants, according to Duane Buske, manager of purchasing, warehouse and distribution for university dining. An additional three restaurants and six convenience stores are slated to be certified by September 2015.

The milestone will be the culmination of a two-year process that began while the university was constructing what would become the nation’s first LEED platinum-certified student union in 2013. Paul Melchior, SDSU’s dining director, met with consultants who suggested the GRA program “because it carries sustainable certification within the restaurant industry.”

To be a Certified Green Restaurant with the Green Restaurant Association, dining locations need to earn a minimum score of 100 by achieving points in seven categories:

  • Water Efficiency
  • Waste Reduction/Recycling
  • Sustainable Construction/Furnishings
  • Sustainable Food
  • Energy
  • Disposables
  • Chemical/Pollution Reduction

Dining establishments earn points for following sustainable practices. For example, using an Energy Star-rated convection oven would earn a foodservice unit 11.25 points towards energy efficiency.

The process can take up to 18 months, but existing sustainability practices such as composting helped some dining locations to become certified in five months, says Melchior. Here are the waste reducing and energy saving practices that helped SDSU meet the Green Restaurant Association’s standards.

1. Composting

Since 2008, dining staff have sent food prep scraps to Miramar Greenery, the city’s composting facility. This practice has diverted more than 350 tons of waste annually and helped dining services earn 18 certification points, says Buske. “That’s huge, just to do pre-consumer composting,” he says.

2. Conserving water

Reducing water use was a huge target because of California’s four-year drought, says Melchior. To conserve water, new sink aerators and nozzles were installed. The department also purchased a high-efficiency dish machine and a boilerless steamer. Going trayless in The Dining Room and the Faculty-Staff Club also reduced water usage. At the Faculty-Staff Club alone, they have saved 160 gallons of water per day, according to the university’s website.

3. Leveraging campus initiatives

In addition to it’s own sustainable practices, dining services leaned on the campus’ energy reduction efforts to meet certifications standards. For example, the campus’ solar-powered electric car charging stations helped each location earn points in energy conservation.

“Every location earned points because of the [charging stations] available on campus,” Buske says. “It’s not necessarily the things that we do inside the restaurants, it’s also what the campus does, too.”

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