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!

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

Reusable To-Go Container Turn In

Attention all Reusable To-Go Container Users:

RTG Container Turn In: All 3 containers and your key ring with key tags need to be returned by Reading Day (Thursday 5/8).   The key ring with tags should be returned to the kiosk while the containers can continue to be turned in at the conveyor belt.

We will be giving out a prize to the participant that has logged the highest Reusable To-Go Container usage by 5/8/14.  Stay Tuned!

Thanks so much for your participation in the Reusable To-Go Container program this year.  We look forward to offering this program again next year, hopefully with a few improvements. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to email sustainabledining@vt.edu.

Good luck with Finals and have a wonderful summer!

 

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Why Do You Choose Local?

Last week, in honor of Earth Week, a group of photos were posted on Virginia Tech Dining Services’ facebook page that raised the question, “Why do you choose local food?”

Anna Isserow, a student in the Civic Agriculture & Food Systems minor has partnered with Dining Services for the past two years to work on a final capstone project that supports Dining Services’ Sustainability efforts.

The result was this “Why Do You Choose Local” campaign.  These pictures (and a few drawings) now inform what campus thinks about eating and supporting local food options on campus!  Take a look!

 

 

Recyclemania 2014

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We’ve just entered the second week of Recyclemania and the  competition is fierce!  Virginia Tech is competing in a National Recycling competition called Recyclemania. Recyclemania is an 8 week competition promoting recycling.  The 8 weeks are divided into 3 phases with goals and prizes for each phase (Details below).  At the end of week 1, Virginia Tech was in the lead for the number of “I Recycle” pledges signed, so let’s keep it up!

Find the pledge here: http://americarecyclesday.org/take-the-pledge.

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Sign the “I Recycle” Pledge. http://americarecyclesday.org/pledge/ Just like these Hokies already have!

Overall, the goal of Recyclemania is to increase our Recycling rates, this includes plastics, aluminum, glass, paper & cardboard recycling AND all compost.

Looking ahead.  Here’s the Recyclemania Schedule:

  1. 2/2 – 2/15:  Sign the I Recycle Pledge.  The school with the most pledges signed with receive a bench for campus made out of Recycled Plastic.  All that sign the pledge will be entered to win a prize from the Office of Energy & Sustainability.
  2. 2-16-3/1: Get Caught Green Handed.  During these two weeks, Office of Energy & Sustainability interns will be roaming campus with stickers.  If you are spotted doing something green, you’ll get a sticker.  Submit photos of you and/or your friends doing something green.  Whether it’s using a reusable water bottle, recycling, using a reusable to-go container, …  Tag #VTGreenhanded and submit them to @VTSustainable on instagram or twitter.
  3. 3/2-3/29: Sustainability Olympics:  Students are encourage to create a team for the Sustainability Olympics.  More details to come.
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Visit Sit & Sort and learn about “What goes Where.” Put your recycling and compostables in the right bin!

Fall Fun Day Recap

This post was written by Katherine Fairbanks, a student in the English Program as well as the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems Minor.  Thanks Katherine!

If you had pulled up to Kentland Farm a few Fridays ago, you would have been amazed at the vintage cider press getting cranked.  This soon-to-be annual event turned out to be a success and an opportunity to connect with new members of the community. On October 25th, students and some of the full time workers at Kentland Farms collaborated to put together a “Fall Fun Day” for the Blacksburg and Christiansburg community.  The event was the first of its kind, meant to be a test run for what students hoped would be an annual event.

At four o’clock, cars were already parked in the gravel lot at Kentland Farm and students and volunteers were setting up the event.  Many of the volunteers for the event had been there since well before three, bringing out tables and setting up stations.  Upon arrival, guests received a “scavenger hunt” which encouraged use of all of the stations present.  Those that completed the hunt were allowed to take home one of the many pumpkins lying in the grass.

The heaviest of these stations to be set up, but also arguably the star of Fall Fun Day, was the vintage cider press in the center.

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Chris Youngs, a volunteer at Kentland and a Virginia Tech student in the Civic Agriculture  and Food Systems minor, found this old cider press in one of Kentland Farm’s barns and spent hours with his tools putting it back together.  Some of his vintage chainsaws he had also put together were also on display.

His ability to assemble these pieces of American history was a treat, and definitely added to the overall experience of the event.

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Past the cider press was the food table.  Among the fall-themed delicacies were pumpkin seeds, pumpkin muffins, fresh apples from the farm, and other baked goods.  This table provided a place for people to come and mingle while enjoying homemade snacks.  Copies of a small, handy recipe book were also given away, showcasing some of the best tastes of fall. Guests were also invited to write in chalk their favorite fall recipe.

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 Walking in a circle around the stations of the event, you would next come upon the “seed saving” table.  On a well-decorated picnic table laid a few varieties of seeds, including Cosmo flower seeds and dill seeds.  Guests were invited to make small pouches out of scotch tape and wax paper and pack them with seeds for later planting. seed saving

 

 Next was the herb-drying table, arguably the absolute best-smelling station of the event.  The aroma of all of the herbs was enough for any guest to want to take a small bundle home to hang upside down in their house to dry.

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Munson even wanted to help with the herb drying table!

 

This event was placed at exactly the right time, because as the sun dropped down, the night air was just chilly enough that it was comforting to have a cup of fresh-pressed apple cider to warm up.  The hot coals keeping the outdoor cooking stove running and the cider pot steaming provided a warm offering to those guests more sensitive to the cold.  It also provided a place that opened up conversation among students and community members alike.  Later in the evening, packs of marshmallows were opened up and guests were invited to roast them over the stove.

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Before packing up for the evening, it was important to take a swing at the nut cracking station, kind of like a judge has to swing her gavel at the end of a meeting.  The satisfying crunch of the nuts before retrieving a free pumpkin to take home provided just one more instance of Fall Fun that made this event at Kentland Farms exciting, festive, and even educational. 

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The purpose of Fall Fun Day was to bring the community together, but also succeeded in educating guests about local food in a variety of ways.  The recipe book at the food table, the herb-drying lesson, the seed saving opportunity, and even the fresh apple cider all contributed to the promotion of local, sustainable agriculture… and it was just a really good time, too.

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Thanks for braving the cold – we hope to see you all next year!

 

 

Chef’s Table Event a Success!

This post was written by Hayley Billingsley, a student in the Human Nutrition, Foods & Exercise Program and as well as the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems Minor.  Thanks Hayley!

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Thanks to all that joined for a fantastic locally-sourced meal featuring the talent of Virginia Tech’s Executive Chefs! Held in Owens Banquet Hall September 26th from 5-8 pm,  there were  142 attendees in total – many students, faculty and staff – spanning various colleges and departments across the university!

Planning for this event began during the summer when Virginia Tech Dining Services’ chefs started brainstorming dishes that could highlight local and seasonal ingredients.  The goal for this meal was to source as much as possible from within the commonwealth of Virginia.  Almost ALL of the produce, including the decor,  was sourced just down the road from the Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm.  Some of the ingredients, like the peaches from Chef Scherer’s Peach Cobbler and the Garlic Scapes for Chef Moritz’s pesto, were harvested during the summer, processed and frozen in anticipation for this meal.  Here’s a picture of the mixed greens for Chef Yun’s Beer (Starr Hill) braised greens.  Aren’t they pretty!?

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Below are just a few of the delicious dishes prepared, which ones were your favorites?

Dietrick Dining Hall’s Chef Randall Van Dyke: Virginia Trout Company Smoked VA Trout

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Personal Touch Catering’s Chef Chang Yun: Roasted Apple Sauce Braised Pork Loin

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Owens Food Court’s Chef John Scherer: Virginia Tech Striped Based,  Grilled Eggplant, & Asian Vegetable Salad

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Turner Place’s Chef Mark Moritz: Grilled Leek and Eggplant Baba Ghanoush

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West End Market’s Chef Mark Bratton: Chesapeake Blue Crab Rillette

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And the “cool” factor of the meal was the Virginia Maple Ice Cream with Bacon Snow and Chocolate Covered Bacon Twist!  How do you make bacon snow, you ask?  The bacon is frozen at a very low temperature and then pulsed in the blender et voila, you have snow that tastes like bacon!

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The meal also featured delectable drink options such as an Apple Cider Sage spritzer and mouthwatering breads such as Kentland Farm’s Garden Vegetable Foccacia.  A big thanks to all that helped make the meal a great success!

Follow @VTGreenDining on Twitter and like The Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm Volunteer Program on Facebook to learn about  great events like this in the future!