WashU Dining Services Continues Improvements in Sustainability and Efficiency

Since last fall, campus-wide efforts toward sustainability have taken hold at WashU. Thanks to successful partnerships with Bon Appétit, student groups, the Green Dining Alliance and the Office of Sustainability, WashU Dining Services has recently reached some notable milestones.

Ibby’s Receives Top-Tier Sustainability Certification

Last October, WashU Dining Services went through the process of certifying Ibby’s at the DUC through the Green Dining Alliance (GDA), a sustainability certification program for restaurants in the St. Louis area. Six Dining Services representatives, including WashU Dining Services Manager Paul Schimmele and Bon Appétit Regional Support Manager Chris Ipanis, participated in the in-depth, 2-hour audit. The in-person audit provided an opportunity for both reporting on current efforts as well as discussing a path for continued improvement toward sustainability needs and goals.

Earning a 5-star certification, the highest level of recognition within the program, Ibby’s stands as “the sustainable alternative to the fast-casual dining lifestyle that is typically associated with student life”, as GDA program manager Jenn DeRose writes in her report. Self-service or a-la-carte, Ibby’s menus always feature delicious meals using quality products sourced from local farms such as Ozark Forest mushrooms, Companion breads, Rain Crow Ranch beef and even freshly picked basil and tomatillos from the herb garden, and seasonal veggies from the on-campus farm, Burning Kumquat.

Upon receiving this top-level sustainability award from the Green Dining Alliance, Dining Services accelerated their efforts to advance sustainability in Ibby’s operations. Following the recommendations outlined in the GDA report, small changes were immediately implemented to improve the resource efficiency of the venue. Weather strips were replaced around the doors to avoid energy loss, aerators were installed on faucets to save water, and new motion sensors in the basement will significantly reduce the amount of electricity used for lighting.

Campus-Wide Efforts to Reduce Single-Use

In addition to sourcing better food and increasing resource efficiency, WashU Dining is pushing forward programs and operational changes to reduce the amount of materials entering the waste stream.

Adding on to the successful Bottomless Coffee Mug, the new “Refill & Refresh” program allows students to receive a soda membership, making it more affordable to drink out of a reusable, rechargeable cup rather than a single-use one. Saving thousands of disposable cups, the program has also dramatically reduced the consumption of sugary drinks on campus!

Small changes can make a big difference. WashU Dining has proved it by saving hundreds of paper napkins (and hundreds of dollars) by simply moving the napkin holders from individual tables to a central location in the server. Just like we have learned that “all you can eat” generates more food waste than controlled portions, we now know that by making napkins and straws a little less visible and accessible, we can save a lot of materials and invite more responsible behaviors.

Straws on Request: a Pilot that Could Become the Norm

 

Responding to a demand from the student community, Dining Services is piloting a “straws on request” approach in Bear’s Den, making it the default to skip the straw. Customers who want a straw have to “just ask” the cashier to receive a straw.

Dining staff has observed a significant change in behavior since the straws are located at the cashiers. Demedrius, who has been working in WashU dining halls for 14 years, says that most students don’t request a straw, because they just don’t need a straw. In addition to reducing waste, the new set-up has also made Demedrius’ job more efficient. “It’s easier for us, as we don’t need to pick up all the straws and papers that students used to leave behind all over the place”.

WashU Dining is excited to save straws, and money, as a result of the change. “If the pilot proves to be successful, we will look at further implementation across campus”, says WashU Dining Services Manager Paul Schimmele.

While straws and napkins remain available for customers who do need them, the new arrangements encourage us to become  more aware and make more responsible decisions regarding our consumption habits.

PRO TIP: Taking your beverage on the go? Grab a lid but leave the straw behind. You can take the lid off and drink from the rim when you get to your destination!

DID YOU KNOW? Reusable straws are inexpensive and easy to acquire. The WashU bookstore is selling reusable straws, and they are available at several events as a giveaway promotion!