Doing Our Part: Eco-Friendly Dining Halls

As more and more posters advertising sustainability pop up in our dining halls, it has become apparent that the Claremont Colleges are moving in a greener direction. But sustainability is more than just a fancy buzzword for going green. Behind every juicy organic tomato on those posters is the active consciences of 5C students and dining hall staff members. 

Here are just some ways that our 5C dining halls do their part in being sustainable.

CMC makes it compact.

Recently, CMC food services started implementing two eCorrect food waste decomposers. The huge metal boxes made by Environmental Strategies Inc. crunch up leftover food with their spinning gears, reducing heavy platefuls to mash. These machines have made at least a thousand pounds of peat moss and fertilizer from leftovers since their installation, Franco said. 

“These machines reduce the volume of waste by 85 to 93 percent because it makes the waste into reusable, sterile biomass,” Franco said. 

The college also recently purchased a baler. For those of us who did not grow up in a recycling plant, it is hard to fathom the crunching capacity of these six-foot tall metal machines. (Think Wall-E, on steroids). Each day, CMC’s baler crunches loads upon loads of cardboard into neatly packed boxes for recycling. The contrast between the shiny mopped floors and neat tables of the interior and the debris-littered loading dock reveals just how much of the food services process we do not see.

Scripps gets green.

Like CMC, Scripps is also recycling cardboard with a baler. Their website boasts that they are “cultivating a unique cash crop–cardboard”. Additionally, Scripps dining also donates left-over food to local charities and food waste is composted for use as fertilizer for the campus. 

Malott Commons is looking ahead to carry out their commitment to sustainability. During the summer, the dining hall will be researching reusable cups for students to take out beverages, akin to the current green containers for taking out food. The dining hall is also looking into increasing the amount of local and sustainable foods, wrote General Manager Tom Adkins in an e-mail to TSL

Students will soon be able to play a bigger role in increasing dining hall sustainability with the assistance of Malott Commons. 

“We will assist students in measuring post-consumer waste in the next few weeks to help make plans for using that waste before it goes into the normal waste stream,” wrote Adkins.

Pomona and Mudd keep it local.

The push for a sustainable dining experience begins even before food becomes waste. Pomona College Dining Services focuses on getting its food sustainably through partnerships with local farms and businesses. Selecting sustainable food items that go into a healthy and nutritious meal is an exhaustive process. 

“I look at labor practices (fair trade), especially if it’s produced outside of the U.S.; I look at animal treatment if it’s an animal product (Certified Humane, cage-free, etc.) and I look at where it is produced (we define local as within 250 miles of campus),” wrote Sustainability and Purchasing Coordinator Samantha Meyer PO ’10 in an e-mail to TSL. “Over 40 percent of the food Pomona College purchases meets these standards.” 

All of the honey at Frank and Frary is from local honey collectors, Meyer wrote. She added that almost all meat used is from humanely treated animals and all eggs are from cage-free sources. Leftover food is rarely thrown away, but rather donated to local shelters instead. 

The Hoch-Shanahan dining hall made headlines for being Harvey Mudd College’s second Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building when it was built in 2005. In addition to being a sustainable building itself, the HMC dining is dedicated to serving up fresh, locally produced food. 

“Eighty percent of our distributors support locally grown and/or sustainable agriculture. We receive deliveries several times during the week to ensure that the produce is fresh. Our salad bar offerings change as to what is available and locally grown,” HMC dining hall general manager Miguel Ruvalcaba wrote in an e-mail to TSL.

Pitzer cooks from scratch.

At Pitzer College’s McConnell Dining Hall the journey from “farm to fork” starts locally, within a 150-mile radius of the campus. Pitzer Executive Chef Dennis Lofland is also the regional forager for the college’s food management company, Bon Appétit. 

“I go out and find the farms and cool locally produced foods,” Lofland said. “If there is a product that is produced in this circle that is made up of products that come outside of the circle they don’t qualify.” 

McConnell Dining Hall makes 99 percent of its food from scratch to ensure freshness and nutrition for its students. This reduces the trash from packages and is more economically sustainable because it lowers the cost of labor needed to produce food products, Lofland said. Lofland also said that he tries his best to consolidate food orders into one delivery truck to reduce the carbon footprint of the delivery process. Pitzer Dining Services also tries to buy food in bulk in order to reduce waste from the extra packaging. 

“Making food from scratch and buying from local purveyors is such a community builder in sustainability because you’re getting food from local farms and you get to control the flavor while supporting the local economy,” Lofland said. 

“Sustainability, whether or not you are a staunch conservative or a far-left liberal, is not something that should be political at all,” Lofland said. “It’s the right thing to do because it’s our planet and our responsibility.” 

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