Category Archives: About

A New Year, and Some Exciting Updates!

Happy 2017, Hokies! It’s a new year, and a new semester here at Virginia Tech. As we gear up for spring classes, I want to introduce myself. My name is Gwyneth Manser, and I’m the new Sustainability Manager for Virginia Tech’s Dining Services (and Housing and Residence Life, too!).

A little about me: I recently completed my Master’s in Science in Geography at Portland State University, where my research and classes focused on food justice, urban agriculture, and sustainability. I also hold degrees in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from Emory University. I’ve done everything from working on an organic farm to working as a park ranger, and in my spare time I enjoy cooking, gardening, and exploring the outdoors. I’m excited to learn more about Blacksburg, and to contribute to the ever-growing conversation about sustainability on campus.

Virginia Tech Dining Services has a long history of sustainability efforts, and many of those initiatives were spearheaded by previous Sustainability Coordinators and Interns working with Dining Services. My predecessors, Andy Sarjahani, Rachael Budowle, Elena Dulys – Nusbaum, and Rial Tombes, led the way by implementing and expanding a composting program, bringing reusable to-go containers to VT, and helping to expand the Dining Services Farm at Kentland Farm, to name but a few projects. From supporting zero waste events on campus to helping VT go “(styro)foam free” we’ve come a long way, but we still have further to go. I’m thrilled to be a part of that progress.

Have ideas about what we can do to help VT’s Dining Services “go green?” Have any feedback on our previous efforts? Feel free to leave a comment below, or tweet us at @VTGreenDining. You can also send me an email at gmanser@vt.edu. Don’t be a stranger!

Best,

Gwyneth Manser

Sustainability Manager
Dining Services and Housing and Residence Life
gmanser@vt.edu

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#Freeusable Day Success!

Hokies made history last month!

On February 17-18th, VT Dining Services offered a free trial of the Reusable To-Go program in all participating dining halls. Almost two weeks’ worth of containers were handed out over those two days, and since the promo, there has been a marked increase of Reusable To-Go use campus-wide!

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For those of you who participated: thank you and welcome to the Reusable To-Go program!  You can keep ordering your food in those snazzy green containers as long as you keep returning them and hold on to your token. If you need a refresher on how to use the program, watch this short video.

Virginia Tech Dining Services staff wash and sanitize each individual container after they are returned to the OZZI machines, but don’t forget to make sure to empty excess food before returning your containers (if you’re keeping them overnight, kindly give them a rinse)! This makes for a faster and easier cleaning process.

Hokies have proven our commitment to sustainability – let’s keep making history!

Local Food Spotlight: Blacksburg Bagels!

Wondering where the insanely delicious bagel you ate at Farms & Fields this week came from? Meet our featured local producer, Blacksburg Bagels: responsible for your delectable, doughy, ring-shaped snack!

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Hole-y moly, would you look at that spread!

Jessica and Pete – also known as the “Bagel Lady” and “Pie Guy” – have each been baking for a while, but only started working as business partners in the last couple years. Jessica, a Virginia Tech grad, started realizing her talent when she was a student involved with the Sustainable Food Corps. After apprenticing on a farm in Montana, she decided to bring her skills back home and pursue working with local markets full-time! Pete also has a VT background, and after many years working for the university, he decided he wanted to apply his business and communication skills to something he could sink his teeth into. From this, a beautiful, bountiful, bagel-baking business was born!

Although Blacksburg Bagels just started producing for Dining Services this year, they supply a wide variety of baked goods to businesses throughout Blacksburg and beyond. They also sell much more than just the obvious: their pitas, pies, pizza doughs, and breads are just a few examples of what’s usually on the menu. You’re most likely to catch Blacksburg Bagels at the downtown Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays (Gluten-free day! 2-6) and Saturdays (9-2). Hint: if you buy their t-shirt, you get free bagels for life (sorry – offer not valid in dining halls)!

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Grab one of these (or a dozen…) and some local veggies at the farmer’s market for a healthy Saturday lunch!

Perhaps the best part about Blacksburg Bagels – yes, even better than their buttery pretzels – is their love for sustainability and the local community. Because they don’t have an established bakeshop, Jessica and Pete are able to focus on working with and supporting other local businesses. This also means that they can create small, custom batches and develop their recipes – which is good for the rest of us, too!

Blacksburg Bagels is excited to be working with Dining Services, and the partnership means much more than just bagels on our plates: it means nourishing ourselves and our local community in a sustainable way.

Check out our twitter (@VTGreenDining) to make sure you catch Blacksburg Bagels on the Farms & Fields menu. Believe me – you don’t want to miss what they’ve baked up for us!

To-Go Options

DS_to-go-charge-socialmediapostWhen you order “to-go” you have more options now.

Compostable To-Go Containers are available in Owens Food Court, Hokie Grill, Turner Place, and West End Market for your to-go meals.  All large, 9 inch compostable to-go containers cost $0.20 cash/ $0.10 flex to use.

Reusable To-Go Containers are available at Owens Food Court, Turner Place and West End Market.  For $3.50, buy-in to the Reusable To-Go Container program and use this program your entire college career and you save $0.20 cash/ $0.10 flex every time you use it.

Remember to ask for your meal in a Reusable To-Go container when you order and buy in or hand over your token to the cashier.  All Reusable To-Go containers should be returned to one of our three OZZI machines located in the units where we offer the program.

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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

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!