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On-Campus Dining Sustainability Efforts at Colleges and Universities

The biggest names in on-campus dining are making great strides to reduce waste at schools across America. Chartwells, Aramark and Sodexo have all made many eco-friendly changes to reduce waste in both food and materials and make dining operations more energy efficient.

Chartwells’ four basic tenets of sustainable and socially responsible business practices are: Eat Green, Build Green, Run Green, and Return Green. In its on-campus dining locations, Chartwells uses biodegradable consumer food packaging, plates, and utensils made from compostable materials such as bamboo and corn byproducts. Aramark and Sodexo both make sustainability a priority as well.

Arguably one of the most energy-efficient changes made in dining halls across America is doing away with trays. Colleges have gone trayless because it takes so much energy to clean them. Removing trays from dining halls has also reduced food waste. When diners don’t have a tray they tend not to carry excess food. Since eliminating trays, Aramark says in addition to reducing use and costs of energy and water, food waste dropped as much as 30 percent per person on days when trays weren't used in cafeterias.

Reusable takeout containers are another key component of many college dining sustainability programs. It is against health code to bring in your own container to dining halls, due to the possibility of food contamination. University dining services across the country have ditched disposable take out containers and now sell students reusable, eco-friendly take out containers. Students can pack their meal to-go and then return the container for a new clean one. 

With more students preferring to eat on the run, sustainably-minded schools are making a push to reduce disposable utensils. Universities have given the gift of Eco Promotional Products’ reusable utensil sets to incoming freshmen participating in on-campus dining programs. Louisiana State University has reusable silverware bins located in various locations in the Student Union. Students can take clean utensils from the bin and then return them to the bins to be cleaned. 

Over the past 15 years, college dining plans have expanded outside of the traditional three meals daily in dormitory dining halls. Today, students have the option of meal plans that expand to other on-campus dining options such as on-campus fast food restaurants, coffee shops and more. These locations accept meal plan cards and students frequently use their cards at these locations for beverages. Many colleges offer one free reusable drink container to dining plan participants that allows students to get free fountain beverages at locations that accept meal plan cards. Many schools also give beverage discounts to any student who refills with a reusable container.

Looking to green your university dining program and get rid of disposable cups? Visit Eco Promotional Products to see our wide selection of reusable drinkware. 

Photo credits: Eco Take-out container (University of California Santa Cruz), Tray-less promo (Auburn University), Reusable silverware bins (LSU - Louisiana State University), Reusable cups (Pomona College).