How College Campuses Are Moving Towards Sustainability


Until recently, college and university foodservice was synonymous with uninteresting and boring food that lacked healthy choices and globally influenced options. Now, driven by the food interests and on-the-go eating habits of busy Millennial and Generation Z students, on-campus foodservice plays a fundamental role within colleges and universities, according to Foodservice Equipment and Supplies Magazine, ‘’Prospective students now carefully consider the quality of campus dining along with academic offerings, and savvy schools are wise to the fact that food — and the culture and community they can create around it — has become a powerful recruiting tool’’. Students eating preferences have also altered over the years, now they often prefer grab and go meals that they can easily take to class or back to the dorm using foodservice disposables rather than sit down, cafeteria style dining.

Colleges are not only responsible for fueling the minds of its students but also their bodies, college campuses are laden with informal dining options for hungry students and faculty on the go. These quick snacks and meals generate massive amounts of unnecessary waste. Many foodservice companies that operate on campus have been making various efforts to reduce this waste. Many have eliminated cafeteria trays that require cleaning after every use which wastes water and energy. The trays are often unintentionally used as a method for students to compile 25%-30% more food than they actually will consume, according to Time Magazine, which generates even more waste. Many colleges have eradicated disposable condiment packets and replaced them with large dispensers and have begun to grow their own produce or purchase from local, often organic, farmers to further push for conservation of resources and green efforts. They have also been experimenting with biodegradable and green foodservice disposables to reduce waste and further accommodate faculty and students’ informal, on the go eating preferences.

Disposables are not an issue exclusive to college cafeterias and eateries but rather the entire food service industry. This issue has manifested over several decades of fast and informal food service where convenience and cost-effectiveness are crucial. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, food containers and packaging constitute 23% of waste in landfills. Additionally, Green Restaurant Association states that Americans are generating 3.2 Million Tons of quick serve food packaging yearly, with less than 1% being recycled. In comparison, in 1969, only 270,000 tons of food service disposables were used in the US.

Food service disposables are often made from paper, plastic and styrofoam, each with their own set of potential environmental waste problems. Paper creates the need for new materials (tree fiber) to be harvested which leads to deforestation and land degradation. Bleaching agents such as Chlorine are often used in the production of paper products leading to pollution in the landfill. While the use of plastics do have the potential of being recycled or upcycled, they often aren’t. Plastics to be recycled must be disposed of to a specific recycling facility based on the type of plastic that are often not available in certain areas.

Students also are interested in ensuring the foodservice disposables they are offered on campus are environmentally friendly, Foodservice Director reports that ‘’newer eco-friendly materials increase disposables’ appeal factor’’ and that ‘’associating a food hall with new choices in disposables is a good way to engage consumers, particularly if those benefits are called out clearly on signage’’. Not only does incorporating eco-conscious foodservice disposables reduce waste but also brings in new students and revitalizes current foodservice establishments. In Technomic’s 2017 Trend Report, they revealed 46% of consumers say it’s important for the foodservice locations they visit to promote recycling and use recycled materials or biodegradable packaging.

Today, affordable food service disposables are available in many eco-conscious varieties that minimize waste. These products are created from a variety of upcycled, biodegradable and compostable materials with the purpose of not only reducing waste but also lessening the amount of fossil fuels, energy and water expended. The environmental conservation potential of eliminating all non-green foodservice disposables in colleges nationwide is immense.

Transitions2earth products provide an excellent and affordable solution for institutions, such as colleges and universities, that are seeking out ways to diminish the massive amounts of waste created by foodservice and improve upon sustainability goals.