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WashU Local Retailers Receive Green Dining Alliance Certifications

Written by Office of Sustainability student associate, Faith Phillips, Class of 2024

Launched in 2012, the Green Dining Alliance (GDA) is a restaurant certification program offered by local non-profit, earthday365. The GDA works with restaurants in the St. Louis region by providing them with practical strategies for expanding sustainable operations and then certifying them for their green efforts.  

Historically, some of WashU’s niche dining locations, such as Ibby’s Bistro and The Whittemore House on the Danforth Campus and Farmstead on the Medical Campus, have been certified with the GDA. With the introduction of new locally-owned retail dining on the Danforth Campus and Dining Services’ focus on sustainability, all six new locations went through the certification process this semester.  

WashU is proud to announce that all of its local retail dining partners are now Green Dining Alliance certified, marking a significant milestone for both WashU and the owners of these establishments. The certification includes four levels, ranging from a 2-star to a 5-star rating. All of WashU’s local dining partners have received 3 stars or above with three restaurants achieving a 5-star rating: Beast Craft BBQ at Parkside Cafe in the Schnuck Pavilion, Coffeestamp at Grounds for Change in Hillman Hall and The Fattened Caf. at Bytes Cafe in McKelvey Hall. 

Cassie Hage, assistant director of sustainability, and Tiffany de la Roche, assistant director of dining retail operations, spoke about the significance of the certification for WashU. When asked about the benefits, Cassie emphasized the university’s belief in third-party certifications saying, “Whether it’s USDA organic foods, Green Seal cleaning supplies, or BPI-certified compostable products, these are tools for consumers to navigate an increasingly complex marketing environment where many companies are making claims that may be only partially true, incomplete or even misleading or inaccurate.”  

Working with the Green Dining Alliance enables WashU to receive support from a local organization that conducts external reviews of the dining program and local business operators. This creates a level playing field for all dining partners, ensuring equal access to resources and benefits and alleviating any unequal burden on operators.  

Onboarding six locally-owned small businesses posed a challenge, but the GDA certification framework facilitated engagement with retail partners to enhance sustainable operations. Due to existing sustainable practices, a major overhaul wasn’t necessary. The retailers received points for things like low-impact packaging, local sourcing, and providing straws only upon request. There was a need to configure a new waste-sorting process due to lacking infrastructure. Some locations faced challenges with waste collection and hauling due to the absence of nearby docks or dumpsters. This has been addressed by the university.

Dining Services and the Office of Sustainability (OOS) contribute valuable expertise, and collaborating with the GDA during the certification process enabled the OOS to gain insights into the operations and challenges faced by local businesses. Membership in the GDA enhances  visibility for local retail partners, positioning the program as a valuable resource for consumers seeking environmentally conscious dining options

As we look ahead to the future, our goal for our retail partners is to extend the application of their innovations beyond our campus and into their home locations. It’s important that these restaurants share their newfound knowledge with their off-site teams, seamlessly integrating these changes into their daily operations. Additionally, this knowledge should extend to local indirect partnerships, fostering collaborative growth and ongoing progress.

For more information about the Green Dining Alliance, including its certification process and environmental impact goals, visit their website.