Monday, April 20, 2009

HOLD THE TRAY! U of I Dining Goes Green!

Brooke Shantz

The University Housing Dining Services, at the University of Illinois, has decided to make sustainability a priority! This department is currently making vast evolutionary changes towards their goal. Dr. Aubrey, Senior Assistant Director University Housing, stated that the overall goal of the “Sustainable Dining” project is, “to reduce the carbon footprint of dining services.”

Current and future efforts made by University Housing Dining Services include: local purchasing, campus farm program, campus composting, recycling and waste reduction initiatives. Local purchasing is being defined by any produced or processed items within a three hour radius of Champaign-Urbana. Meats, dairy products, coffee, tea, breads, fruits, vegetables, and other grocery items are being purchased locally and served in the dining halls.

The University Housing Dining Services is working together with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES), under the supervision of Dr. Bruce Branham, Department Head of NRES, to develop a student farm that will provide produce during the summer and into the fall. This two acre farm located at Lincoln and Windsor Roads will continue to grow into a ten acre farm by the Summer of 2011. Dr. Aubrey enthusiastically stated that, “the NRES student farm is thrilling, to have freshly picked, delectable produce that is served within hours of harvest that has a five mile carbon footprint.” This summer herbs, tomatoes, bell and other peppers, salad greens, cantaloupes, cucumbers, summer squash, and sweet corn are all being planted, along with apple, pear, and peach trees. A composting program supported by Dr. Wesley Jarrell, Professor in NRES, is also being started using biodegradable food waste gathered from residential dining halls. The composting program will help reduce waste and provide fertilizer for the student farm.

Trayless dining is another great feature of this project. Currently, Pennsylvania Avenue Residence (PAR) and Lincoln Avenue Residence (LAR) are trayless operations. Trayless dining conserves energy by reducing the amount of hot water consumption used to wash trays and the electricity needed to run the dishwashers. It also reduces food waste, which has been demonstrated at PAR, for this facility had a 40% reduction in food waste by switching to a trayless system. Not only does a trayless operation conserve energy and reduce waste, but it also promotes healthy eating and may help students eat smaller portions at mealtime. By August 2011, all dining facilities will be trayless operations.

Biodiesel projects are also being started at residential dining halls. Various dining facilities are having used fryer oil picked up, which will then be used for two separate projects on campus both of which are making alternative fuel sources. Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois is using their alternative fuel, to power vehicles on campus. The other biodiesel project is sponsored by the student group, “Engineers Without Borders” and the Facilities & Services Garage and Car Pool on campus is planning on using their biodiesel fuel. Currently, there are recycling bins in the residential halls and cardboard from all kitchens is being recycled. Ikenberry is the new dining facility currently being built on campus and by using new technology and advancements in building science it is being constructed in a way that promotes energy efficiency and reduces CO2 emissions. This building must follow The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. The U.S. Green Building Council states that LEED, “encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria.”

“Sustainable Dining” is an exciting project happening on the University of Illinois campus! As sustainability advances on the dining front, it is important that we do our part to promote a sustainable environment! Dr. Aubrey mentioned that students, faculty, staff, and the community should be excited about this project, because, “sustainable dining consists of responsible best practices that support our university and local community ultimately having a global impact.”

Will sustainable dining be the wave of the future with more and more school dining services jumping on the green-wagon? Projects like these speak volumes about the commitment that the University of Illinois has not only to their students, but also to the community. “We have an obligation to our campus and communities to be more sustainable, we are providing dining services for students who place sustainability as a high priority making sustainable choices when possible.” ~ Dr. Aubrey


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