Going Green: Dining hall waste
One local college has made some changes to increase their sustainability. Our Terry Ettinger tells us more about what SUNY Cortland's dining services are doing.
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- When you're serving 10,000 or 11,000 meals per day in nine different dining facilities, reducing food waste and increasing sustainability is a tall order. For example, what do you do with gallons and gallons of used cooking oil?
William McNamara, Director of Dining Services at SUNY Cortland, tells us, "We put it in a barrel container, and we have a local farmer who comes and picks up our fryer oil once a week. He transports it back to his farm and uses is on his farm to run his farm equipment and his automobile, and some of his house."
Changing when food is prepared can also help to reduce waste. For example, SUNY Cortland has a stir fry station where everything is cooked and made to order.
"So you see, we actually have the toppings and ingredients that students or customers can come up and be put together. We assemble it right here in front of them," said McNamara. "The students are getting exactly what they want, which means they're going to be happier with the meal. They're going to eat more, and they're going to throw away less."
In the residential dining facilities, the traditional tray has been eliminated. That saves on the water and chemicals used for washing the trays, and not having a tray produces other benefits as well.
"In my opinion, it also helps with portion size. When you can't load up a tray, there's less going into the tray return, and there's less going into the landfill. At the same time, I like to think of it as a healthy way of eating, because if you're going to get up for an extra portion, at least you're taking a few extra steps to get there," noted McNamara.
Also, SUNY Cortland has switched to utensils made from potato starch, cups made from a corn product, and plates made from sugarcane, all of which are biodegradable and can be composted.