Going green in the dining halls

Originally posted on the-standard.org on Feb. 16, 2016.

As far as sustainability is concerned, Missouri State has got it covered. Hydration stations, bike maintenance stations, bike racks and recycling bins are scattered across campus. Solar tables rest outside of Blair-Shannon and the Solar Stop is available to protect bikes from weathering.

But it doesn’t stop there. The dining halls have also implemented their own changes to further the sustainability movement already set in motion. Director of Marketing Nicole Young has had a large role in planning and focusing projects and programs toward going green.

“We focus several of our events each year on sustainability education and awareness,” Young said. “Also, I get to assist in bringing new sustainability programs to campus, as well as serving on two sustainability committees.”

Some of these programs include lunch without lights, waste display tables and walk-in coolers to prevent extra energy use. However, the extent to these programs extends far beyond the doors of the dining halls. Executive Chef Quintin Eason said one of his responsibilities is reaching out to farmers from around the area for purchasing purposes.

“I help manage all the sustainability programs, one of those being local product purchasing procurements, so I help develop a relationship with local farmers, local producers, trying to increase local purchasing programs,” Eason said.

A variety of the products used in the kitchen are from local farmers. Milk is purchased within 200 miles and mushrooms within 150 miles.

“We are trying to resource things that are closer so there is less fossil fuel used to bring that to us and that’s the local purchasing program,” Eason said. “We are really looking on (finding) things within 60 to 80 miles for produce in particular.”

Once that food has been used and thrown away, the dining halls have come up with an effective program to minimize the amount of waste. Recognized for their methods in 2014 by 417 Magazine, the dining halls have created a process of composting most of the food that is thrown in the trash.

“The waste comes from two places: non-biodegradable products, such as bell pepper stems, the bottom of celery and lettuce, fat trimmings from meat,” Young said. “The second and larger portion come from food and drinks that come back from tray lines, such as leftover bites of cereal or an apple core.”

Explaining the whole process, Eason said the waste is then turned into compost which is returned back to campus.

“We compost all of our produce and then that compost comes back to us,” Eason said. “We use it for fertilizer for gardens on campus so it’s a full cycle.”

One of the workers that helps this process move along is cook Jake Brook. Working for four years in dining halls, Brooke said that the employees throw waste into buckets in which it is then picked up and turned into compost. He explains that the process is continuous throughout the day whenever he and other cooks are preparing food.

“We cook but what we don’t use is put toward composting,” Cook said. “So it’s like when you are cutting a cucumber, you cut the ends off and sometimes you don’t need the inside, so what we don’t use gets put inside the buckets.”

The composting project is just one many that the dining halls have contributed to the sustainability movement on campus. Young explains that a future project of relying solely on campus-grown produce is the next step in the green process.

“We will be purchasing Zip Grow towers so that the dining centers can begin to grow all their own herbs and some lettuces,” Young said. “This will significantly reduce our purchases of produce in their categories from being shipped in from warmer climates and reduce the carbon output of those shipping processes.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s