OCH Cover
On-Campus Hospitality


October 2011
More Than One Way
To Be Sustainable


In this, our Annual Sustainability Issue, we take a look at the efforts schools and suppliers are undertaking to help the environment, as well as another type of sustainability that has nothing to do with the Earth, that is equally important.

When it comes to environmental sustainability in foodservice, no other segment is as cutting edge as higher education.

Sustainability has become engrained in college and university foodservice. Almost every foodservice operation that is launched or updated on college campuses today involves some aspect of sustainability.

Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, recently added solar water heating to its operations. It is estimated to eliminate more than 90,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Local sourcing remains a popular way to meet student desire for sustainability. At both the University of New Hampshire in Durham and Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., campus dining services are getting at least some of their produce from campus farms or greenhouses. It doesn't get more local than that.

At Towson University in Maryland, the new Silver LEED-certified West Village Commons has sustainability threaded into every area of the building, from the equipment to the recycling bins. Dining Services even based the decisions on what national brands to include in the facility partly on the sustainability efforts the company undertakes.

Knowing what manufacturers are doing relating to sustainability is important. Suppliers describe their efforts in this area in our annual Green Directory. Now, your sustainability efforts can be enhanced by what the manufacturers of the products you use are doing. Remember, just because a supplier may not be local does not mean that what it offers is not sustainable — and certainly not everything that you need in your operation can be local, whatever your definition of local may be.

One other area where it pays to be sustainable — not in the environmental sense — is to think in the long term when adding a new concept or operation.

Both the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton and the University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNCC) launched new operations recently and set out to design operations that would be immediately viable and remain that way for a long period of time.

“We want to steer the course right,” said Keith Wassum, associate vice chancellor for Business Affairs at UNCC. ”We want to make the brand what we intend it to be. Get it straight, keep it strong, keep the quality up, maintain our standard and then go from there.”

This includes adding limited-time offers and being flexible with the menu to add and subtract items as needed.

As we have featured many times on the pages of On-Campus Hospitality, schools are also setting up operations that are flexible from breakfast to lunch to dinner to late night, installing equipment that meets more than one purpose or stations that change on a daily basis.

Some food fads are just that — fads. There is no telling whether they will still be popular in two years — or even next. Locking yourself into a certain type of operation can be a mistake.

So when your students ask you what sustainable efforts your operations are undertaking — and they will, if they haven't already — you can point to all of your green initiatives. You can also be satisfied that just as you are trying to help the Earth thrive, you are also helping your operations do the same.