Dining Services receives $5,000 grant for sustainability

UC Santa Cruz Dining won a $5,000 grant for its comprehensive approach to food service sustainability during the 2008 Greenbuild Expo in Boston, held November 19-21.

The award was given by the Fellows with the Hobart Center for Foodservice Sustainability (HCFS), which provides thought leadership and counsel on sustainable design efforts and innovation for the food service industry.

Scott Berlin, UCSC's director of hospitality and dining, was named an HCFS Fellow. James Smith, chef de cuisine for UCSC, accepted the grant on Berlin's behalf.

UCSC was judged as having the best sustainability program from among numerous entrants nationwide, which included educational institutions, food service establishments, and hospitality facilities.

"This recognition by the HCFS provides additional validation for the programs we have implemented as part of our sustainability efforts," said Berlin, who will help select future operations for grant recognition while serving as an HCFS Fellow. "We look forward to sharing our success stories as well as to continuing to develop additional sustainability programs that can flourish in part because of this grant award."

UCSC "is not only implementing sustainability efforts that shine as best-practice examples, but their innovative approach also demonstrates attention to detail in all aspects of sustainability and is proving to have a significant return on investment," said Rick Cartwright, vice president and general manager of retail systems for ITW Food Equipment Group and an HCFS Fellow.

Overall, UC Santa Cruz decreased energy consumption and water use, reduced solid waste and water waste, and implemented a Farm-to-Fork program. To conserve energy, UCSC's Dining Services department teamed up with PG&E to replace incandescent lighting, exit signs, and older-style T12 ballasts (long fluorescent light bulb holders) with more energy-efficient alternatives. As a result, the campus saved nearly $10,000 annually. For its efforts, UCSC also received a $26,500 rebate from PG&E that will fund future sustainable Dining Services projects.

The campus updated its purchasing practices to mandate that only Energy Star-qualified equipment be purchased. Dining Services now uses 56 Energy Star-rated appliances that have cut most energy costs in half. In addition, Dining Services launched its "Trayless Tuesday" campaign, in which trays were removed from one of the campus's five dining halls. This measure alone reduced food waste by 32 percent. By fall 2008, UCSC eliminated all trays in an effort to save an estimated 30,000 gallons of water each month as well as save on cleaning chemicals and water heating costs.

In order to reduce waste, the campus implemented a pilot composting program in which kitchen scraps are collected from four of its five dining halls and transported to the Vision Recycling composting project at Buena Vista Landfill in Watsonville. Since July 1, Dining Services has diverted 28 tons of food scraps from the landfill, according to Candy Berlin, program coordinator for Dining Services.

In conjunction, Dining Services uses compostable paper products and flatware made from corn, which are 100 percent biodegradable and compostable. The university also finds productive uses for food instead of throwing it away. Vegetable and meat scraps are used for soup stock, and grease, fat, and unused cooking oils are recycled for other purposes, such as biodiesel fuel. Other perishable food is donated to a local food bank. When food must be thrown away, it is converted to slurry via a pulper. Using pulpers, UC Santa Cruz has reduced cubic yards of waste collection in dumpsters by two-thirds. The university has also eliminated five gallons of grease a day from entering the wastewater system by using a bucket to dispose of grease instead of rinsing it down the drain.

UC Santa Cruz purchases $6.9 million in food supplies yearly. By buying locally whenever possible, Dining Services keeps revenue in the local economy. It also provides for fresher, higher-quality vine-ripened produce and reduces the campus's carbon footprint. Aside from purchasing produce and crops from local farmers, the campus also runs its own farm. The UC Santa Cruz Farm supplies dining services with organically grown produce. Buying from its own farm eliminates the need to transport produce to campus and keeps revenue in our own economy and thus supports the research and education of sustainable farming practices.

UCSC has several additional sustainable programs in the works, including using reusable containers for all to-go meals served and installing solar-powered trash compactors. Dining Services is also investigating more vegetarian-based menu items.

A Webcast of the news conference and more is available at www.hobartcorp.com.