UConn Dining Services wins award in environmental leadership

The UConn Dining Services recently won an Environmental Award. The Putnam Dining Hall was redone over the summer and is now Green Restaurant Certified. One of Putnam's new features is this Living Grow wall with herbs that will be used in dining hall recipes. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s department of Dining Services recently won the staff category for this year’s Environmental Leadership Award, an annual award presented by UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy.

The Environmental Leadership Award is given to individuals and groups who have made exceptional efforts to promote environmental awareness and encourage progress. Each recipient has worked with various other groups on campus to make real, immediate improvements in UConn’s sustainability, according to an announcement on Dining Services’ website.

According to UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy, the criteria for the award includes: Conserving or restoring natural resources, increasing UConn’s use of environmentally sustainable products, ensuring environmental compliance, improving environmental responsibility and creating partnerships with other environmental groups throughout campus and the surrounding community - all things that Dining Services has accomplished.

“The Department of Dining Services is highly committed to locally sourced food and sustainability,” Director of Environmental Policy Richard Miller said. “They are a big supporter of Spring Valley Student Farm by serving food grown by SVSF in Whitney Dining Hall, One Plate-Two Plate and Chuck & Augie’s.”

According to Dining Services, this commitment has paid off.

“In the past four years, our local/regional purchasing has increased from 18% to 35%. We are the number one buyer of Connecticut grown produce in-state,” Dining Services assistant director Michael White said.

Not only is Dining Services committed to providing students with locally sourced food, but they have greatly reduced their consumption of natural resources as well, White said.

“We are trayless, saving thousands of gallons of water,” White said. “We centralized napkin dispensing, saving on the volume of napkins used.” Additionally, six dining halls are currently green restaurant certified, and there are plans to eventually have all eight earn that certification.

Dining Services also recently partnered with the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources to implement initiatives designed to reduce food waste. These programs included a guest lecture from John Mandyck - the Chief Sustainability Officer at United Technologies and author of a book on food waste titled “Food Foolish” - and a Tasty Waste Lunch on Fairfield Way made entirely from food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

In the years to come, White said dining services plans to continue improving sustainability efforts.

“We will have all eight dining halls green restaurant certified,” White said. “We will have started an educational program on consumer waste, and will continue to increase our percentage of local, regionally grown products.”

To accomplish these goals, Dining Services “works closely with the environmental student group, EcoHusky, by conducting food waste studies done at various dining halls. They also collaborate with the Office of Environmental Policy each year to put on UConn’s largest sustainability event: Earth Day Spring Fling,” Miller said.

The award was a result of the compilation of the department’s activities and events over the past three years, Miller said.

A ceremony was recently held for the 2016 winners for several categories, including Staff, Undergraduate Student, Graduate Student and University Faculty/Administrator. Awards are also given to UConn-Affiliated Groups and university alumni, according to the announcement on Dining Services’ website.

Miller said he sponsors the award each year. A past winner in the Staff category includes executive director of Dining Services Dennis Pierce.


Gabriella Debenedictis is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu