Dining Ups the Sustainability Bar

Posted Date: 
Tuesday, October 1, 2013 - 9:15am

Dedicated to challenging the status quo in order to support the college’s focus on the environment, this fall, the dining team at Alfred State introduced two new processes that will positively impact the campus’s footprint—incorporating technologies like compostable packaging and reusable takeout containers.

Ever Green: New Venue, New Packaging

With the opening of Ever Green, a self-branded coffeehouse located in the new Student Leadership Center on the Alfred campus, the dining team opted for compostable packaging and service items to reduce landfill impacts. The new location, which serves some 400 students a day, has also chosen to eliminate carryout bags.

Assistant Dining Director and Ever Green Manager Denise Brownell wanted to make sure the unit made packaging decisions that represented the college’s values. “The compostable packaging was a little difficult to work with at first because the material is so light weight. It took us a bit longer to prep during the first couple of days of the semester, but our staff quickly adjusted,” she says.

The Terrace: Reusable Takeout Containers

In 2011, The Terrace, Alfred State’s main all-you-care-to-eat dining venue, introduced a wildly successful takeout program. The downside: lots more waste in residence halls. But the dining managers at The Terrace were quick to react, opting to revamp their takeout plan in 2013.

“After conducting a residence hall survey of refuse, we realized that takeout containers from dining were a huge part of the waste stream,” explains Julian Dautremont-Smith, Alfred’s chief sustainability officer. “We really wanted to find an alternative to traditional takeout. When we talked to the dining team about the survey, we found out that they already had a plan in place.”

The TerraceIn summer 2013, Karen Canne, director of dining services, purchased 650 refillable takeout containers in preparation for the fall semester. “Now students can ‘check out’ a plastic clamshell when they enter the dining hall. Then they can return it to the dining hall instead of throwing it away,” Canne says. “We were concerned that students either wouldn’t return them or would return them without washing them first. But our customers are the best; the returns are 100 percent, and the students have returned them in beautiful condition. We think this program will have a significant impact on the waste stream. We’ll be anxious to hear the results of Julian’s follow-up survey about residence hall waste in the spring,” Canne says.

Alfred State is no latecomer to sustainability programs. For the last 25 years, every piece of cardboard, plastic, tin, and glass from the dining hall has been recycled by ACES. Used cooking oil is also recycled, and in 2012, the company and Alfred State teamed up to shred waste cardboard on campus and use it for livestock bedding at the college farm. They won a NACUFS Bronze Sustainability award in July 2013 for their efforts.