A big part of being green, lowering your carbon footprint, and promoting sustainability is waste minimization. At VT’s Dining Services, we’re working hard to expand our waste minimization and diversion efforts. Below are some of the initiatives and successes we’ve had along this path to a greener university community.
Virginia Tech Dining Services began to compost its pre-consumer food waste in January of 2009 at our pre-preparation food processing center on campus, Southgate Food Processing Center. Since then the project has expanded to include all of our dining centers. In units like Owens Food Court at Owens Hall, West End Market at Cochrane Hall, and D2 at Dietrick Hall, Dining Services staff are trained to sort food waste after customers return their plates and leftover food. Turner Place at Lavery Hall is the first dining center on campus to rely on students for waste sorting. Turner Place’s waste stations are designated for compostables, recyclables and landfillables; you can read more about how to sort your waste here.
A local compost company picks up food waste from each dining center twice a week during the semester. They then manage the waste as it decomposes, cultivating the waste into a natural fertilizer known as compost. This compost is often used at the Dining Services Farm at Kentland Farm, thus helping us to “close the loop.” Between 2009 and 2014, Dining Services diverted more than 4 million pounds of food waste from the landfill.
Plastics numbers “1” through “7” are recyclable in our dining centers and across campus. We also recycle paper, glass, and plastic, which are sorted together as “single stream” recycling. Our recycling stream is picked up by Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority in Christiansburg, Va. For more information on what is recyclable and what isn’t, visit the Farms and Fields Blog.
What goes where?
Waste Stations are popping up all across campus, and Dining Services is asking you to help!
Since 2009, Dining Services has been composting its pre-consumer food waste, and Dining Services Staff also sorts between compostables, recyclables and landfill–ables. Now, we’re getting you involved, too; we have introduced Waste Stations to several dining halls, including Turner Place at Lavery Hall, Au Bon Pain at Squires Student Center and at the Graduate Life Center, Hokie Grill at Owens Food Court and Deet’s Place at Dietrick. These Waste Stations have receptacles for compostable items, recyclable items and landfill – able items. Your help is needed to accurately sort food waste from these Dining Halls. You can use the Sit & Sort website to teach you what goes where, or you can visit this page for an easy guide.
Much of our unconsumed food ends up in the Southwestern Virginia community instead of in the landfill. Inspired by the tragedies on our campus, in 2007 Jacob Moyer, a Virginia Tech alumni, decided to create something positive in our community as we healed together. He began a dialogue with Dining Services’ senior associate director, Ted Faulkner, regarding how we handled food waste. Both Moyer and Faulkner were monumental in leading Dining Services to donate excess food to those in need. In early 2008, our “grab and go” items were donated to the Salvation Army five days a week from Au Bon Pain at Squires Student Center and the Graduate Life Center, Deet’s Place and DXpress at Dietrick Hall, and Vet Med Cafè. Since then, we’ve added hot food items from D2 at Dietrick Hall along with our “grab and go” items, to that list. We also regularly donate to two organizations that serve Feeding America – Southwest Virginia. We also work with Virginia Tech’s chapter of Campus Kitchens.
After a 2008 post-consumer waste study determined that nearly 30% less food is wasted when trays are not readily offered, Dining Services removed trays from our all-you-care-to-eat facilities. This change began during the summer of 2008 during First-Year Orientation, so that incoming students would never miss trays when they arrived on campus. Trays are still offered for handicapped guests or other special requests, and are still available at à la carte facilities, where they have never been used on a wide scale.