A Sustainable School Year: 2014-15 in Review

What a year! Hard to believe that the semester has come to a close. It seems as though we were just slicing up all of the Kentland-grown watermelon at the inaugural Zero Waste Hokie Hi picnic to welcome our new students!

The Sustainability team in Dining Services has been busy implementing new projects over the 2014-15 school year, all of which we are very proud of! Here’s a brief run-down:

July

  • Began sale of reusable Camelbak water bottles during summer orientation.

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August

  • Zero-Waste Hokie Hi Picnic – we composted 3,180 lbs of food waste and recycled the rest!
  • Began use of the OZZI machine in West End Market, expanded the reusable to-go program with token system.
  • Class commenced for the first-ever Sustainable Agriculture Practicum, in which eleven students learned day-to-day management of a small-scale sustainable farm.
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Waste Station Volunteers welcome Freshmen at the Hokie Hi Picnic

SEPTEMBER

  • Celebrated Sustainability Week with the ribbon-cutting of the Dining Services High Tunnel at the Urban Horticulture Center.
Dining Services Director Ted Faulkner and Farm Manager Alex Hessler at the ribbon-cutting for the High Tunnel

Dining Services Director Ted Faulkner, Farm Manager Alex Hessler and UHC Director, Susan Day at the ribbon-cutting for the High Tunnel

October

  • Family Weekend – Tribute to Local Ingredients sourced almost exclusively from Virginia producers and farmers and premiered our “table to farm video” that can be seen here.

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November

  • Collaborated with SGA to pass legislation to provide every incoming freshman (in Fall 2015) with a reusable to-go container.

January

  • Farewell, styrofoam – hello compostable containers! Transitioned from styrofoam to-go containers to a compostable alternative.
  • First salad greens harvested from the High Tunnel!

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February

  • “We See You” Table Card Campaign inspired diners at West End Market to reduce their to-go use from 40% to 31% over two weeks.
  • Brought on our sustainability intern, Millie Smith, who has been involved in Zero Waste event planning, compost audits and much more! We’re excited she’ll be back with us next semester!
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Creepy but successful!

April

  • Brought Red Sun Farms tomatoes on board in all of our dining units and offered a tomato tasting station at D2 during Earth Week.

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May

  • Attended the Sustainable Food Systems Symposium and learned about sustainable food initiatives at other VA schools including UVA, JMU & GMU.

VT Dining Services is also proud to have been ranked Best Food in the annual Princeton Review, awarded silver for Outreach and Education in Sustainability by the National Association of College & University Food Services, registered as an official VA Green Restaurant, and featured on the VT homepage as an example for our achievements in sustainable, local dining!

As much as these accomplishments call for celebration, we are eager to get started on plans for the fall. Looking ahead, some changes you can expect upon return in August include:

  • Expansion of the reusable to-go program through installation of TWO new OZZI machines (!!!) in Owens and Turner Place, thanks to the Green RFP Program offered through the Office of Energy and Sustainability (VT received record funding through the program this year!)
  • Partnership with Sea to Table, an intermediary that ensures the purchase of local and sustainable seafood, and local business Blacksburg Bagels for delicious home-baked goods offered at the Farms & Fields Project!

While you’re getting into plans for summer, be sure to stay tuned with Sustainable Dining Services as we gear up for our busiest season! If you’re staycationing in Blacksburg until the fall, keep in touch on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to receive updates.

Cheers to a great year and have a sustainable summer break!

Celebrate Earth Week!

Celebrate Earth Day with a fresh, local tomato.

Visit D2 for lunch this Wednesday,EARTH DAY, April 22 for our local tomato caprese station.  We’ll be serving a variety of tomatoes grown just a few miles down the road in Dublin, VA at the Red Sun Farms greenhouses.

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Is that “For Here” or “To Go?”

DS184_Compostable_DigitalSign2With the start of a new semester, brings a new inititative from VT Dining Services: Compostable To-Go Containers.  These containers replace all foam clamshell containers in the units.  You will find these containers at Owens Food Court, Hokie Grill, West End Market and Turner Place.

Please remember to order “for here” when you’re eating in and return your compostable to-go container to the compost bins in our dining units.  Compostable To-Go containers can be returned to the following locations.

Dish Return Areas:

  • West End Market or
  • Owens Food Court

Waste Station Bins marked “Compostable” located in:

  • Turner Place at Lavery Hall
  • Squires Student Center
  • Graduate Life Center
  • Hokie Grill at Owens

Intern with VT Sustainable Dining!

Dining Services is hiring an intern for their Sustainability program.

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Sustainable Dining Internship Description

About Us:
One of Virginia Tech Dining Services’ seven guiding principles is to “Promote a sustainable dining and food system at Virginia Tech and therefore the greater community.”   Programs like the Farms & Fields Project at Owens Food Court, Food Waste Composting, the Dining Services Farm at Kentland, Reusable To-Go Program are a few examples of ways that Dining Services puts our guiding principles into action.   Sustainable Dining aims to advance sustainability in what we eat, sustainability in where our waste goes and sustainability in what we use while at Virginia Tech.

Intern Description:
Sustainable Dining at Virginia Tech seeks a dynamic, self-starter to assist in promoting sustainable dining programs. This internship is an excellent opportunity to impact the Virginia Tech campus in a lasting way. This position is meant to last for a least one semester with the potential to continue on in subsequent semesters.

Responsibilities:

  • Coordinate events to promote sustainable dining efforts.
  • Generate interest and promote events hosted by Dining Services Sustainability.
  • Outreach efforts including speaking to classes, tabling at events, etc.
  • Assist with implementing social media strategy (facebook, twitter, Instagram, blog posts, etc).
  • Spearhead research projects.

Qualifications:

  • Ability to communicate effectively and in a professional manner.
  • Passion for Sustainability in Food and Dining including supporting local farmers and producers, understanding waste minimization strategies to include composting and recycling as well as compostable and reusable to-go containers.
  • Self-motivated, good organizational skills, detail-oriented, ability to prioritize, multi-task and meet deadlines.
  • Firm grasp of available tools and platforms in the social media space.
  • Must have a working knowledge of Word, Excel, and internet research.
  • Experience in graphic design and/or filmmaking is a preferred qualification.
    Total Hours per Week: 10 – 20

Compensation: $8.50/hour, including meal equivalences provided per each 3 hour shift worked

To Apply, please send a resume & cover letter to sustainabledining@vt.edu by Monday January 26, 2015

It’s You, Not Us

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Announcing the start of a long term relationship with compostable to-go containers!

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Starting January 2015, Dining Services will be replacing select foam to-go containers with compostable to-go containers.

What should you expect from this transition?

  • All meals currently served in 9×9 single and triple compartment and 6×6 foam containers will be switched to compostable containers. Note: National brands will not be impacted by this transition.
  • The compostable to-go containers are made out of Bagasse which is a byproduct from the process of refining sugar from sugarcane.
  • The crushed sugarcane stalks, which are normally disposed of by burning, are taken to a processing plant where they are converted into paperboard which is used to make these compostable containers.
  • When you’re done with your compostable to-go container, please return to any dish return or compostable bin in the dining units.

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What’s New with Dining Sustainability this semester?

As well as on Instagram and Twitter: @VtGreenDining

Sustainability in What you Eat:

  • Dining Services spent 12.9 % of its food and beverage budget on local food last academic year.  This is an increase from 10.8% in 2012-13.
  • Our Farm Manager, Alex Hessler, is teaching a course this Fall on Small Scale Sustainable Farm Management.  He already has 13 students enrolled.  Consider adding the class to your schedule (Hort 4984)!
  • The Hokie Hi Welcome Picnic will be serving local watermelon from the Dining Services Farm, all 1600 lbs of it!

Sustainability in What you Use:

Reusables:

  •  This year, Dining Services has a new Reusable Water Bottle for sale in most of our units.  The water bottle can used for water and customers can get a discount on soda when presented at the register in participating units (see full list here).
New Reusable Water bottles available for purchase this Fall.

New Reusable Water bottles available for purchase this Fall.

  • Pay $3 cash or $6 flex for use of a Reusable To-Go Container when ordering food.  When finished with the container,  return the container to the Ozzi machine located next to the kiosk in WEM, and receive a token.  This token can then be handed to the cashiers at WEM for the next time they would like to order in a Reusable To-Go container.

Compostables:

  • All Coke cups are now compostable.  Make sure you throw it in the right bin (the compost bin) when you leave! If you set it on the dish return, our staff will take care of it.
  • The Hokie Hi Picnic this year will be Zero Waste which means that all to-go ware will be either compostable or recyclable.  This event is designated to be a Virginia Green Event  and will reduce the amount of trash going to the landfill drastically.
  • Stay tuned for news on potentially transitioning away from foam to-go containers sometime this coming academic year!

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Sustainability in Where it Goes:

  • Since 2009, VT Dining Services has diverted more than 2100 tons of waste from the landfill through our composting program.  Eventually, some of the finished compost goes back to the farm  to be used to enrich our soil and close the loop.

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Summertime and the livin is easy.

Well, the craziness of the last few weeks of the semester and graduation have come and gone and it is officially SUMMER in Blacksburg!  Woohoo!

Even though all our students are gone, summer is probably one of the busiest times of the year for Sustainable Dining at VT.  The farm is kicking it into high gear and there are plenty of projects to get ready for August.  Soon enough, we’ll be moving the incoming freshmen into dorms, picking apples, and cheering onVT Football.

What are YOU doing this summer? Keep in touch!

Honeysuckle blooming at Kentland Farm #HokieGrown #HokieSummer

Honeysuckle blooming at Kentland Farm #HokieGrown #HokieSummer

Visit us @VTGreenDining on Twitter & Instagram!

Whether it is a picture of your farm or garden, a shameless food pic from your garden’s bounty or just some of your summer adventures, send it our way! @vtgreendining #hokiegrown

So what have we been up to so far this summer?

Take a look at what we’ve been working on in the last few weeks:  The building of our new Hoop House!  Hoop Houses are structures that are used to extend the season.  The house provides just enough cover that it keeps the ground and air warm enough to continue growing into the winter.  We’re starting out planting tomatoes and basil in the Hoop House this summer.  In the winter, we’ll use the Hoop House to grow salad greens for the Dining Units!

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Want to help out?

While we’re talking about the farm, there have been a few requests for volunteer hours at the farm.  We currently do not have any scheduled volunteer hours, however, you’re welcome to join our crew during the week.  The crew works Monday – Friday from 7 AM – 3:30.  Email sustainabledining@vt.edu or message us on facebook to let us know when you’d like to come down.  Please get in touch with us before coming down so that we can be ready for you!

The Sustainable Food Corps at VT also is working on a farm this summer and could use some help.  They meet on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM and Sundays at 10 AM at their farm behind Smithfield Plantation.

Stay tuned for more updates throughout the summer!