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Sustainable 2nd Century

Sustainable 2nd Century

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Campus Progress: Dining

Our Sustainable 2nd Century vision: Eating on campus supports UC Davis' commitment to sustainable agriculture.

Photo: Woman carrying plates of food

By removing trays from dining halls, 50 percent less food is wasted and much less water is used for washing.

Where we are

The University of California system has set sustainability goals for all campus food services by 2020. A primary goal is that 20 percent of food purchased for campus by 2020 must be considered sustainable — whether organic, fair trade certified, locally grown, cage-free or other approved criteria.

At UC Davis, already more than 21 percent of food purchases for the 1.8 million meals served per year in campus's four residential dining halls are from local, organic or sustainable sources.

Founded as the University Farm, the campus focus on agriculture has long influenced individual eating choices. Proactive students, faculty and community members have been at the forefront of the organic and sustainable agriculture movements, and the Davis community hosts one of the first certified farmers markets in California.

The Coffeehouse in the Memorial Union was started in 1969 by students and embodies the community aspect of sustainability. The CoHo, as it's called on campus, uses from-scratch cooking, provides many jobs for students, and uses products from local sources, including the UC Davis Student Farm.

Photo: A woman tossing lettuce in a salad

Rosalva Morales prepares greens grown on campus for the Gunrock Pub’s salad bar. 

Sourcing food sustainably

UC Davis is a customer of the Sacramento Growers Collaborative, which sells fruit and vegetables from a group of local family farms. About 14 percent of food in campus dining halls is grown locally, which University Dining Services defines as within a 250-mile radius of campus. All in-shell eggs are cage-free and certified humane from a local egg ranch.

Campus eateries also serve products grown right here on campus. Olives grown on campus, which once posed a cleaning and safety problem for the Grounds Division, are now processed for an olive oil blend that is served on campus and sold to the community. The campus meat laboratory provides teaching and research opportunities for animal science students, and its meat products are also served in some campus meals.

Fruits and vegetables from the UC Davis Student Farm, where students can learn sustainable growing practices in certified organic fields, are also sold through campus eateries. Student Farm produce is also available to subscribers of Student Harvest, the farm's community supported agriculture program, or to customers at the UC Davis Farmers Market, Wednesdays from 11:00am-1:30pm at the Silo Patio during spring and fall quarters.

Students and other campus community members who want to get their hands dirty growing their own food can do so at the community gardens on campus, including the Experimental College Community Garden. The campus Salad Bowl Garden is tended by students who invite community members to bring a bowl, fork and dressing for occasional meals. Demonstrations at the Good Life Garden also teach community members how to grow their own food.

Photo: plates, bowl and silverware

In Student Housing, paper plates and bowls have been replaced by Aggieware: kits of reusable dining ware.

Considering what we eat with

Fewer paper plates, plastic bottles and dishes of uneaten food means less campus waste. In residential dining halls, one way to reduce waste has been to remove plastic trays that encourage excess plates of food. Since June 2008, all four dining halls have been trayless, which decreases food waste by nearly 50 percent. No longer having to wash the trays saves more than 50,000 gallons of water.

In residence halls, meetings fueled by free food on paper plates used to be common, but now resident assistants have access to Aggieware, kits of reusable plates, bowls, cups and flatware that are returned to the dining hall for professional washing. The kits also contain recycled paper napkins and a bag for compost waste.

In an effort to reduce bottled water purchases, first-year students are given reusable water bottles. Hydration stations located throughout campus make re-filling bottles easy throughout the day. Many dining outlets give discounts to customers who bring their own bottles or mugs.

The campus Waste Reduction and Recycling program also operates the "Spot-A-Mug" campaign that gives coupons for free refills to customers using their own bottles and mugs in campus eateries.

Photo: a large industrial composter sits behind the dining commons

Food scraps from Tercero Dining Commons make their way to this large, industrial-scale composter behind the building.

Composting waste to close the loop

Project Compost, a unit of the Associated Students of UC Davis, composts pre-consumer food scraps from kitchens at the Coffee House, campus coffee kiosks and the Silo. 

Several times a week, student staff and volunteers collect compost bins from participating kitchen facilities and deliver the contents for composting at the Student Farm. There, compost piles are monitored, turned and allowed to decompose — eventually become rich soil for use at the farm.

In a separate operation, industrial composting is also taking place at campus dining halls, Gunrock Pub and Aggie Stadium, with new compost bins being added to the Memorial Union. Both pre-consumer and post-consumer waste — including uneaten food, soiled paper products, kitchen scraps, meat and dairy products — are collected in biodegradable garbage bags for composting. Many take-out containers and utensils used on campus are made of biodegradable corn, potato or sugar resins that can be composted.

The collected waste is sent to Jepson Prairie Organics in Dixon. The waste is broken down into nutrient rich matter for use by local farms, many of which supply Dining Services with fruits or vegetables. 


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