Millersville University Dining Services Goes Green
Going green is a growing trend today in our society. We have taken initiatives such as conserving energy and water, reducing waste, recycling, and much more in efforts to protect our environment from damage in the future. Millersville University, a Pennsylvania state school that has about 8,000 undergraduates, is grasping the concept of going green and putting forth ideas to do its part in helping the environment. University Dining plays one of the biggest roles in this project. The dining staff has noticed their operations have not been the most environmentally friendly but they are ready and have already started taking steps towards changing for the better. The changes are simple and easy for students to adapt to but make a big impact on bettering the environment.
How does Millersville go green? You can follow along with the changes they've made and maybe use some ideas for making your own home greener!
Reducing Waste of Water
- University Dining has switched its dishwashing machine to a Hobart FT900 Ware washer which is Energy Star qualified. This means the washer must meet strict Environmental Protection Agency energy and water saving guidelines. The washer is designed to save up to $15,000 a year by reducing rinse water and energy costs. It also reduces energy consumption by as much as 16%.
- The Hobart FT900 Ware washer is estimated to save more than 73% of water and energy usage when compared to the last dishwashing machine used. Previously the machine used 633,600 gallons of water a year and now only 297,000 gallons a year are used which is a saving of 336,000 gallons of water annually. Think of how much that will be over a long period of time!
The Hobart FT900 Ware washer not only saves the university a ton of water but it also saves much needed energy!
Reducing Waste of Energy
- The Hobart FT900 Ware washer saves energy by using an Energy Recovery system. The Energy Recovery system recycles the heat energy that the machine already generates and reuses it for heating the water. Energy is also conserved by using cold water for the final rinsing of dishes in the machine.
- Before 2005 the dining halls ran their exhaust system all day every day. They have changed this by putting the exhaust system on a timer to start when operations start and end when operations end. It also has a manual switch allowing them to turn it off when they aren't in operation.
- The lights in the Upper Deck and North Side Bistro dining halls are now turned off whenever possible to save electricity. This can be a tough habit to break but turning off lights when not in use is one of the most simple, cheap and effective ways to save energy.
- Previously the dining hall used five gallon water containers but switched to using filtered water instead. They no longer have to pay for a delivery once a week to deliver more water containers. This saves fuel for the driver, and cuts down on exhausts from the trucks being released into the environment from the weekly drive.
Reducing Waste of Food
- The dining halls on campus are considering going tray-less, which is a popular trend at college campuses across the nation in efforts to reduce the waste of food. Some campuses have tried this and reported cuts of waste by 50%. In a survey done on 92,000 students by catering giant Aramark, results showed that 79% of students support the idea to reduce campus waste. The main dining halls still have trays but are slowly being taken away. They've already been removed from the Galley in the Student Memorial Center and are only available by request. A student run petition in support of going tray-less is currently happening on campus, if you see people asking you to sign a petition supporting this initiative, do your part and sign it!
- There is a limit on how much of an item can be taken at one time in efforts to reduce food waste. One example of this would be the following situation: The dining hall is serving mozzarella sticks; there is a sign up that limits students to only take five mozzarella sticks per trip to the food line. This reduces the amount of waste accumulated by students taking a large amount of food that they believe they can eat but end up wasting it.
- Dining services employees who work in the dish room monitor what food items are mostly thrown out to get a feel of what students enjoy and do not enjoy. If certain foods are showing up a lot in the trash, the cooks will avoid making it in the future in order to reduce waste of food. Who knew trash held such valuable information!
Recycling in the Dining Halls
- All cans and bottles in food services production at Millersville University have been recycled for the past eight years. Recycle bins are located within the dining operations and are marked so students can find a bin easily and recycle their bottles and cans. All these recycled bottles and cans can be made into new products.
- The Dining Services offices also recycle their newspapers and office papers.
- All cardboard boxes are recycled as well.
- The frying oil used for the food is picked up by an outside vendor for recycling and reusing.
- The napkins in all of the student dining operations are made from 100% recycled paper
- Dining directors have requested that their produce vendor buy as much local produce as possible.
- Dining Services has started buying from a Lancaster County farm in the fall of 2008, which has provided students with local organic and fresh produce that they can trust.
- Lancaster Buy Fresh Buy Local: a program on educating the public on the benefits of buying locally grown foods. The program has two goals. 1. To increase the demand for locally grown foods. 2. To strengthen our local food system by connecting Lancaster County families, farmers markets, restaurants, and other institutions with Lancaster County farmers. Millersville University Dining is helping Lancaster Buy Fresh Buy Local by buying produce from a Lancaster County farm and by having their food vendors do the same. They are supporting the local economy and providing students with fresh and organic produce that they know came from somewhere close.
Dining Hall Green Initiatives (Upper Deck and North side Bistro Dining Halls)
Reducing Waste of Products in the Dining Halls
- The dining halls have changed from a system of putting ketchup and mustard bottles on every table in the dining halls to removing the bottles off the table and changing to bulk dispensers that are centrally located for students to use. For the 2006-2007 school years, 14,350 individual 16 ounce bottles were used as opposed to 500 cases of bulk ketchup and mustard used during the 2007-2008 school year. Using the bulk cases of ketchup and mustard has saved them from having to recycling a large amount of bottles and can instead break down and recycle a less amount of cardboard boxes.
- At the beginning of the fall 2009 semester, the North Side Bistro dining hall introduced reusable take-out containers to replace the Styrofoam containers they were previously using. Styrofoam is the 5th largest creator of hazardous waste. It is not biodegradable and does not really have a market for recycling. To help move towards using all reusable containers, dining staff charges students fifty cents each time they use the Styrofoam container as opposed to the reusable container. As of October 2009, more than 200 students use the reusable container program. Hopefully more students will catch on as going green becomes more popular and will also begin to use reusable take out containers.
- University dining no longer uses disposable products except for napkins in the student dining operations (which are made of 100% recycled paper.) Condiment cups, straws, and cups to measure ingredients such as waffle batter have all been removed. By removing these products, the paper product waste is reduced and there is less trash generated in the dining halls.
Retail Operations Green Initiatives (The Galley, Starbucks, and Gordy's convenience store)
- At Starbucks, located in the Student Memorial Center, students may purchase a drink tumbler made from recycled materials. Instead of using a new cup every time you order a drink and generate unnecessary waste you can bring back your reusable tumbler and have your drink poured into that.
- When buying food at the Galley or at Gordy's convenience store, students typically grab plastic bags to put all of their items in even if they don't need them, they're just conveniently placed by the cash register. Instead of grabbing a plastic bag every time you can purchase a reusable shopping bag to carry your materials for only 99 cents at Gordy's. Not everyone wants to use these and University Dining realizes that so there has also been talk at dining meetings about possibly purchasing biodegradable plastic bags that students can use instead. Either way they are working towards moving away from the use of non biodegradable plastic bags.
Educating Millersville Students on Green Initiatives
- There is a yearly special event in student dining to educate MU students on sustainability.
- In 2009 the event was entitled Mother Earth-Green Dining, which included a plant to plate salad bar, organic garden vegetables, "Lost in Thyme" slow cooking, and a locally grown fresh fruit market. A contest for a going green tip of the week was held and signage was done using bamboo and unbleached muslin paintings. Basically every aspect about the event was educating students on all the different ways they can be green.
- In 2008 there was a going green contest to encourage students to give University Dining ideas on sustainability efforts. More than 100 ideas were received and out of those ideas presented, more than 20 were actually put into use at all the dining operations on campus.
- Comment card boxes are present in the dining halls and retail stores so students can fill out a card and give more ideas that could be implemented in the future.
University Dining Services is doing a great thing by not only going green but also by educating students on the initiatives they have taken. These ideas that they are educating can be used by students and students can educate friends and family on the subject so they can go green in their own way. By reading the outline above there are easy and effective things we can get from this that students or members of the community can do in their own dorm room, apartment, or home. You can read on below for more in depth information on what you can do to be green and if the behaviors help or hinder our environment.
Turn the Lights Off!
Just as Dining Services made it a habit to turn the lights off when they didn't need them in their dining halls, we should think about doing the same thing. This is one of the most efficient, easy, and cheap ways of doing your part to conserve energy.
- Did you know that electric light is not as calming as natural light because it does not cover the full color spectrum, or that light pollution blocks our view of seeing the stars? Doesn't this make you want to turn some lights off and enjoy some natural sunlight?
The moment a light is turned off, it stops using energy. There are myths saying that turning a light off and then back on uses more energy than just keeping it on but that has been proven to be false. In effort to help conserve energy lost from constant use of light bulbs, there are newer and sustainable light bulbs out called compact fluorescent bulbs which do cost a little more but they end up paying for themselves in the end. These light bulbs are energy star compliant and use less than 75% energy while also lasting about ten years longer than a regular light bulb.
- If every American replaced just one light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, we would be saving enough energy to light three million homes for a year.
From now on, when you walk out of a room and don't plan on going back in right away turn the light off, or if the sun is shining through the windows of a room and there isn't a need for a light to even be turned on, keep it off.
Reduce, Reuse Recycle
Millersville Dining has been smart with the next important going green initiative of recycling. So smart in fact that they've been doing it for the past eight years! This is another easy and cheap way to go green for anyone in the area.
- Recycling: the separation and collection of materials for processing and remanufacturing into new products, and the use of the products to complete the cycle.
The newspaper you read today can be recycled and made into the one you read next week. Glass is one of the best things to recycle because it can be used over and over again. Companies collect glass bottles and continue to make them into new glass bottles through the process of recycling. Not only is recycling important and the smart thing to do, it is the law. Pennsylvania is the largest state in the nation to make recycling mandatory.
As a college student, you can be recycling the following items:
- Tests and homework assignments you no longer need
- Drink containers such as bottles and cans
- Newspapers or magazines you're finished reading
- Anything else with a recycle symbol on it
All the items, if recycled can be made into something new!
If you're living at home with your family keep a recycling container inside or outside of the house and separate recyclables into correct containers for waste management to pick up. By recycling you are creating an opportunity for something to be reused or for your trash to be made into something new. You are also creating less of an impact on trash generated and put into landfills around our country.
Speaking of trash generated, food waste, which includes food scraps and leftovers, is the single largest component of waste by weight in the United States. University Dining took steps to reduce this by limiting the amount of food students can take during one trip to the food line, monitoring what students like and don't like to eat, and by starting to move towards going tray-less.
- According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, of the 356 billion pounds of edible food available, about 96 billion pounds are wasted each year.
There are a few different ways that food is wasted.
1. On the farm, bad weather, pests, and insects can ruin produce as well as only harvesting blemish free fruits and vegetables. The rest are left to rot and never get eaten.
2. When food is shipped to stores it is sometimes over stocked, improperly rotated, and damaged. This is another small contributor to food waste.
3. One of the largest contributor of food waste is consumers wasting food they do not eat.
4. The other largest contributor of food waste is waste accumulated by food service establishments such as restaurants and dining halls.
- When food decomposes in landfills it produces methane. All of this food waste going into our landfills is a damaging the environment!
Food waste needs to be reduced, recovered, and recycled. Households can do this by creating a compost pile. A compost pile can be created in your backyard or indoors.
All you need is:
- Brown materials such as dead leaves, branches, and twigs; this provides carbon for your materials
- Green materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds; this provides nitrogen for the materials
- Water to provide moisture and help break down the organic matter
The following items can be added to your compost pile or bin:
- Animal manure
- Cardboard rolls
- Clean paper
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Cotton rags
- Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
- Fireplace ashes
- Fruits and vegetables
- Grass clippings
- Hay and straw
- Nut shells
- Shredded newspaper
- Tea bags
- Wood chips
- Wool rags
- Yard trimmings
Some people are skeptical on compost piles because they believe they will smell bad or attract rodents, but if done correctly neither of these things will happen. Composting these items will reduce our food waste because it will be recycling the scraps and will also leave more room in the trash bag! You can use the compost material to spread into garden beds, or use as soil for potted plants.
Paper or Plastic or Reusable Bags?
University Dining is working on getting rid of plastic bags in their retail operations by offering green reusable shopping bags for purchase of only 99 cents. While plastic bags can be reused if recycled, they still aren't the most environmentally friendly thing to make.
- According to the Green living tips web site, the worldwide annual consumption of disposable plastic bags is somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion bags.
- Bags on the Run, says the oil needed to make 18 plastic bags could drive a car for a mile.
Many stores are offering selling reusable bags for a low price to steer away from using plastic bags. Some bags still use large amounts of plastic to manufacture them so you have to know how to choose the right one that is actually environmentally friendly. Buy a tote that is made from fibers and double check to see if the fibers are organically grown. Bags that use certain dyes or coloring can also have nasty effects on the environment so buy one that's completely natural! If you really want to go all natural with a reusable shopping bag you can make your own. Cut and sew up some old clothing or blankets and turn them into shopping bags! This is a great way to recycle! College students and community members can use these bags for anything. Carry your stuff for school in them or take them back to stores every time you go to carry your groceries. Even retail stores offer these bags as opposed to plastic bags. Old Navy offers an event called stuff and save where if you use one of their reusable shopping totes during certain times you can save 20% on everything you stuff into the bag, then you can leave the store with all your items in the reusable bag as opposed to unnecessary large plastic bags. By offering deals when using these types of bags, more people will tend to use them!
Buy Fresh and Buy Local
The last initiative we've learned from dining services is their efforts to buy local produce.
- Did you know the typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table?
By buying local produce you are providing yourself with farm fresh items that are from right down the road. Although this is not guaranteed, it is likely that the local farm you bought it from practices health food production methods such as not harming the environment, respecting workers, treating animals humanely, and less use of harmful pesticides. When buying local you also support the local economy. Industrial food production relies on fossil fuels with its production and transportation of products. Food processors also use a large amount of paper and plastic packaging for transporting and storing produce. Industrial farms are the major source of air and water pollution due to these factors. In comparison, small local farms are run by farmers who live on their land. The farmers seek the local market and harvest food only when it is in demand, which leads to less rotting of produce and less waste.
The Lancaster Buy Fresh Buy Local program is a good one on educating community members on the benefits of buying local produce. According to the Lancaster Buy Fresh Buy Local Web site, their mission is to strengthen our local food system by increasing the demand for locally-produced foods, connecting Lancaster County families, farmers markets, restaurants, and other institutions with Lancaster County farmers. Their goals include: educating the public on the benefits of locally-grown foods; increasing access to local and sustainability produced foods; increasing farmers' incomes; and improving the local economy. If you want to help improve the local economy you can look for the buy fresh buy local logo on product packaging in stores, on menus at your favorite local restaurants, or in front of some produce at the farmer's market!
If you are wondering where you can find fresh Lancaster produce you can visit one of Lancaster's:
- Eight Farmers Markets
- Twenty-eight farms
- Four restaurants
- Five retail stores
- Two wineries/breweries
If you are more interested in the program you can go to the web site at: http://www.buylocalpa.org/lancaster. You can sign up for the newsletter, look up recipes, or look for fresh food events in the area. Check out one of the fresh food events, or go to the farmer's market and buy fresh local produce and do your part to make Lancaster greener.
With all this information and ideas one can make a great impact on the environment. Millersville University Dining Services is working hard on making changes to their old habits and are educating students to do the same thing. The initiatives the school has taken has spread to students who share with their families who then share with the community, making the impact larger and making our environment better! The school has started small in the dining halls making little changes that make a big difference and now dining's initiatives have spread onto campus. One of the newest building renovations of Stayer Hall has made it the first green building on Millersville's campus. How did they do this? By using fewer natural resources to construct and maintain the building. Now with the new renovation of the Student Memorial Center, ideas to make the building green as well will be taken into consideration. Dining services has started the trend that will spread onto the future of the campus. As new buildings come along as well as old ones needing renovation, the university will look at continuing their green efforts into the future and saving our environment one step at a time.
Now that students are educated on a bunch of different ways to go green they can do their own part contributing to the community and making big changes in reducing their carbon footprint. One way students on campus who are interested in making a difference can join the going green committee which is a brand new committee put forth to continue these efforts and involve student ideas. If students or the members of the community are interested and can offer ideas on how the students can make the campus more green and sustainable you can contact the Student Senate office at (717) 872-3513. If students are busy and don't have time to involve themselves with a committee, they can continue to turn in comment cards in the dining establishments and help university dining make a difference!
Just remember, something as easy as turning off a light when you aren't using it, putting a soda can in a recycle bin, or buying a reusable shopping bag at the grocery store for your groceries is making small changes in our harm to the environment. Make your going green behaviors a habit and you can make big changes to the environment over time!