Campus gets a little bit 'greener' with three more certifications

Al Marquez, catering chef at Cowell Kitchen, shows the colorful contents of the dining hall's compost bin.
A UC Santa Cruz Dining sign at this year's OPERS fall festival points out ways students can be more environmentally friendly.

In several campus kitchens, workers have begun scraping leftover grease or oil from cooking pans into large buckets before putting the pans in the dishwasher.

That gesture alone keeps five gallons of grease per day, per location out of the sewer system, said Clint Jeffries, UCSC food service manager.

"That makes a big difference," said Jeffries, adding that the collected materials eventually become biodiesel.

The grease-collection buckets are part of UCSC's newest "green" certifications from the Monterey Bay Area Green Business Program, administered by the City of Santa Cruz. At the November 13 City Council meeting, the city will recognize certifications for three new campus locations: Porter/Kresge Dining Hall, Cowell/Stevenson Dining Hall, and University Catering.

Crown/Merrill Dining Hall and Banana Joe's Café are already certified. In the works for future certification are Owl's Nest Café, Terra Fresca, and College 9/10 Dining Hall.

"It really makes sense," said Jeffries. "We want to do our part and make as little an impact on the environment as we can. We serve a lot of people, so by doing our part we're having a pretty big effect."

UC Santa Cruz Dining serves about 15,000 meals per day, Jeffries estimated. The green-certified facilities, not including University Catering, serve about 6,500 of those meals per day, he said. University Catering serves about 500 people per week.

The Monterey Bay Area Green Business Program is a partnership of environmental agencies, utilities, and nonprofit organizations that assist, recognize, and promote businesses and government agencies that volunteer to operate in a more environmentally responsible way.

The program is an offshoot of the Bay Area Green Business Program, which was developed by Bay Area local governments in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state Environmental Protection Agency's Department of Toxic Substances Control, and the business community. The Association of Bay Area Governments coordinates the program, which is implemented by green business coordinators in nine participating counties. The regional and local programs are funded by their partners, including local and regional government agencies, utilities, special districts, and nonprofit organizations that promote environmental compliance, pollution prevention, and resource conservation. Some funding also comes from government and nonprofit foundation grants.

To be certified "green," participants must be in compliance with all regulations and meet program standards for conserving resources, preventing pollution, and minimizing waste.

There are more than 150 criteria a facility must satisfy in each of the overarching areas, said Jeffries. Inspectors come from the City of Santa Cruz and nonprofit environmental consultancy Ecology Action to make sure a location is following the criteria. Each certification lasts three years.

Jeffries would even like to go past the green certification requirements by making changes such as installing energy-efficient lighting and expanding composting to all dining locations. Right now, some kitchens do composting, but Jeffries hasn't yet found an organization to take compost from every unit.

Getting three more sites certified is a "major accomplishment," said Jeffries.

But, he said, "It's way more than me and the managers at the locations getting certified."

From staff and students to energy managers at Physical Plant and maintenance workers, Jeffries said, "everyone is contributing to make sure we follow these practices."