The National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Sustainability Awards annually recognize and honor member institutions that have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the promotion and implementation of environmental sustainability, specifically as it relates to campus dining operations. The Faculty Student Association (FSA) was recognized by NACUFS for excellence in sustainable campus dining with a bronze award in the operational category of “Outreach and Education.”
“FSA plays a pivotal role in achieving the overall sustainability goals of the campus and works with our students, faculty, staff and partners every day to utilize existing methods and discover new techniques to significantly reduce our environmental footprint,” stated Matthew Whelan, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and FSA Board President.
From operating an automated hydroponic farm, to purchasing seasonal produce from over 30 local farms to reducing food waste, FSA and Campus Dining strive to provide an exceptional dining experience that is environmentally responsible, all while serving more than 25,000 customers per day and over 5 million meals annually. In addition, FSA has partnered with other areas on campus to work together toward the same goal. “The lessons learned with all of our sustainability initiatives are that each small step helps grow the program exponentially through partnerships with campus departments and student groups to make Stony Brook University a greener campus,” stated Van Sullivan, FSA Executive Director.
Some of the many sustainable initiatives the FSA has launched include:
The Freight Farm is an all-weather steel constructed freight container that has been converted into an automated hydroponic farm. Year round, delicious, nutritious, leafy greens such as Bibb lettuce and radishes are grown without sunlight, soil or pesticides. In addition, it is operated by students providing them with a hands-on experience at sustainable agriculture. In a two-year period, almost 24,000 assorted heads of Bibb lettuce, butter-crunch lettuce, arugula and baby kale were grown.
FSA worked with seniors in the Sustainability Studies Program to analyze and design potential campus gardens replacing underused grass lawns. The students volunteered their time to build the raised beds and weed the gardens before planting in early spring. The herbs and vegetables grown in these gardens are used in the dining locations throughout campus.
Buying local helps reduce transportation costs and exhaust emissions. To bring the freshest produce to campus, Campus Dining sources about 51% of produce locally (within 250 miles) whenever available and in season. In addition, about 25% of product mix is sourced locally, such as fresh bakery items, dairy, etc., either through distributors or by developing partnerships directly with local vendors.
Other sustainability efforts include using 97% cage-free eggs, 99% eco/fair trade coffee, 36% antibiotic free chicken, 86% antibiotic free turkey, 100% rBGH free yogurt and milk, and 27% sustainable seafood from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.
Cooking from Root to Stem
Throughout the semester, Root to Stem meals are offered at dine-in locations where students are educated about the ways they can eat each and every part of most fruits and vegetables, thus reducing food waste while creating new flavorful recipes that are nutritious and sustainable.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
The Waste Not program is another initiative aimed at making the Stony Brook campus a more sustainable place. The Waste Not program is a proprietary web-based tool that tracks, measures, and reduces food waste by focusing on production waste, over-production, and unused/out of date inventory. Campus Dining implemented this program to reduce waste by analyzing the products purchased and how much is produced per meal period, and has observed an average food waste reduction of 34%.
To date, over 298,000 lbs. of food waste has been collected and converted to 122,750 lbs. of usable compost. The compost created is used in the landscaping and flower beds throughout campus. Dining service employees first separate biodegradable waste from other kitchen waste. Three times a week, it is transported from the campus kitchens to the composter. Volunteers then mix the food waste with coffee grinds and the bulking agent and send it to the aerobic compost vessel.
Weigh the Waste
FSA partnered with the Undergraduate Student Government Sustainability committee to “weigh the waste” at dine-in (all-you-care-to-eat) to encourage students to put on their plate only what they can eat to reduce the environmental impact of food waste. On average, the “Weigh the Waste” events show students that in an 18 hours period 368 pounds of food is wasted from their plates when taking more than they can eat.
This is the second year Campus Dining has offered the reusable takeout container program to reduce plastic waste on campus. The program has grown in participation this past academic year and is offered at three locations. At the spring 2019 Midnight Breakfast, we served over 2,900 students and reduced plastic waste by switching to alternative serviceware. At the event 9,000 plastic utensils, 3,200 plastic plates and utensils, 3,000 maple syrup containers, 2,000 jam containers, 1,500 cream cheese cups and 1,500 butter cups were saved from the landfill.
Make an Impact: Give Clean Water, Track Your Footprint and Stay Hydrated
The Office of Sustainability and FSA partnered to launch a new sustainability program called Fill it Forward. The Fill it Forward program offers free cup tags to students. Every time a Fill it Forward tag is scanned, users help give a symbolic “cup of clean water” that is equivalent to a $0.02 donation from Cupanion, who then donates the monies to charitable organizations that focus on clean water initiatives. About 2,000 disposable cups have already been prevented from going into landfills, which reduces plastic from polluting the oceans and helps to give clean water to those in need.