My group’s meeting with Dee Phillips this week in Vail Commons made me wonder about the different things that schools can do to make their dining halls more sustainable. Dee seemed very confident that Commons is aware of sustainability issues when it comes to buying local and organic and waste management, but speaking with her made me wonder which cafeterias in the country are the most sustainable, and what we could learn from those schools. I came across an article about Green College Cafeterias. The schools included on the list were: Yale University, Duke University, University of California Berkeley, College of the Atlantic, Evergreen State College, Berea College, Middlebury College, Warren Wilson College, University of Washington, Oberline College, Bates College, and California State University Chico.
Something that surprised me about this list of sustainable college dining hall was the range of ways that each of them contributes to sustainable college eating. While all of the schools focus on buying local and organic foods, composting, and recycling, many of the schools had their own unique ways of making their eating habits more sustainable. Duke uses biodegradable and minimal packaging. University of California, Berkeley has America’s first certified organic dining hall, which is pesticide, hormone, and GMO-free. Evergreen State College has gardens not only for their own benefit, but that can be used to feed and educate the entire community. Berea College takes used cooking oil from the kitchens and processes it into biodiesel for the College Farm tractors. Middlebury has a “green roof” on their dining hall, which is a roof planted with grasses that reduces heating and cooling costs and stormwater runoff while providing a habitat for wildlife. Warren WIlson College has its own vegetarian/vegan cafe on campus. University of Washington is working on creating the first compostable paper cup designed specifically for soft drinks. As it turns out, there are a number of ways that dining halls can be sustainable and promote a more sustainable lifestyle outside its walls, even while mass producing foods for entire schools of people.