Cal Dining Sustainability Team

Leads: Jenna Kingkade, Michael Laux, Monica Harnoto, Josh Hubert, Nicholas Lam, Nicole Won, Nicole Wong

Sponsor: Cal Dining

TGIF Grant:

Project Theme: Food Justice & Sustainability

Project Location

2012 Application Submission

Status: Complete

Project Description: This grant will fund four sustainability interns for Cal Dining. Interns will assist Cal Dining with greening their food operations and educating customers about sustainability.

Goals: Audit Cal Dining’s operations for consistent application of green standards. Measure the environmental impact of Cal Dining operations, identify benchmarks, and implement programs to reach the benchmarks. Increase sustainability awareness amongst the Cal community. Reduce Cal Dining’s overall environmental impact related to purchasing decisions, waste management, and resource consumption- reduce the amount of food composted at meal end through educational outreach to students and food portion adjustment; examine inventory in Cal Dining’s retail locations, identifying potential changes regarding packaging; adding language about sustainable ingredients and packaging into the purchasing policies. Assist with documentation for continuous green business recertification.

2012 – Spring 2013 Accomplishments

  • Cal Dining Sustainability Team members participated in an orientation and attended the 2012 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference.
  • The team successfully helped Cal Catering acquire green department certification from the Office of Sustainability.
  • Wrote article for the Fall 2012 TGIF Newsletter.
  • Planned and executed a successful 2012 UC Berkeley Food Day Celebration on Upper Sproul.
  • Helped launch various Sustainable Awareness events including Water Day, Earth Week 2012, and the Clark Kerr Sustainability Program.
  • Crossroads and Cafe 3 were re-certified by the Alameda Green Business Certification Board. Cal Catering received its first certification and Pat Brown’s is in the process of becoming certified for the first time.
  • The team conducted a packaging audit of all Cal Dining’s retail stores, to investigate the possibility of reducing the amount of post-consumer waste in Cal Dining’s products.

Chews to Reuse
Cal Dining Sustainability Team implemented a reusable to-go container program called Chews to Reuse in Foothill with the help of a 2012 Green Fund Grant from the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability.

  • Patrons of Foothill Dining Commons were given the option to pay three meal points and enroll in Chews to Reuse, Cal Dining’s reusable to-go container pilot.
  • Participants obtain their containers at the cash register, fill-up, and take food to-go. After use, they bring the containers back to the dining facility and trade in dirty containers for sanitized containers.
  • The Team conducted a customer satisfaction survey October 4th- 6th on the Chews to Reuse Program and results showed:
    • only 3 of 110 respondents opposed expanding the program to other locations.
    • 57% of patrons used the reusable containers, 14% used the compostable containers, and 29% didn’t take meals to-go.
  • A decreased use of compostable containers reduced the volume of containers Cal Dining had to purchase, and decreased the amount of waste produced.
  • On November 15th, Cal Dining was honored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during their celebration of America Recycles Day at Crossroads Dining Commons. The EPA recognized the countless initiatives Cal Dining has implemented to reduce food waste, including the establishment of the Cal Dining Sustainability Team. The Chews to Reuse program was also recognized on America Recycles Day.
    • Attendees included the EPA regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld and Executive Director Gary Wolff.
  • Cal Dining expanded the program to all residential dining commons for the Spring 2013 semester.
Chews to Reuse Metrics
Chews to Reuse to-go containers have a lifetime of 360 uses, and eliminate the the water, energy and carbon footprint inherent in the production process of 360 compostable containers. The Chews to Reuse program also reduces Cal Dining's total waste output: 77,947 kWh and 2,660 therms of energy are saved per year by opting for the Chews to Reuse containers. 3,419 students used Chews to Reuse containers during the program's first month of installment (following the pilot); by the end of spring semester 2013, participation in the program was estimated at 4,249 students and increasing. The Cal Dining Team estimates the program will save Cal Dining a minimum of $46,369.03 annually. Students can potentially save a combined $65,658.00 a year by participating in the program.

Final Report

Fall 2013 Accomplishments

  • Reduced number of interns from 5 to 3
  • The team conducted recycling and composting staff trainings in dining halls – will collect data later to see if these trainings lead to less contamination
  • Replaced landfill-bound lids in GBC, Peet’s, Qualcomm, Pat Brown’s, and Ramona’s with eco-friendly lid (the dining halls don’t have this issue now since Chews to Reuse changed to reusable utensils, containers, and mugs)
  • Hired sustainability interns in the dining halls to be a liason between the freshman and the Cal Dining Sustainability Team
  • Food Day on October 24, 2013

The Future
The team is focusing on projects such as refining Lean Path, a system that weighs the amount of pre-consumer waste each dining hall produces. Cal Dining uses this information to see where it can reduce waste, and the Cal Dining sustainability team will be active in these conversations for improvement.

The team is also collaborating with CRRS to map all of the campus waste bins- landfill, cans, bottles, mixed paper, and compost. Students will be able to use the map to find the closest bin and hopefully simplify waste separation and diversion. The map will also show where UC Berkeley lacks or has an excess of certain bins.

The third project is the launch of a sampling program in the dining halls. Students can receive a sample of the food before they take a whole portion so they don’t end up throwing away their plate just because they don’t like it. This will decrease the amount of post-consumer waste.

Finally, the team is working with Cal Catering, the company that caters the stadium and other special events, and their vendors towards more sustainable packaging in their food products.

Read more about Cal Dining’s sustainability efforts on the Cal Dining Website.