Events and Sugar Dispensers

The spring semester is officially underway -- and it seems as though there are enough Dining/sustainable agriculture related events taking place to keep us all busy these days!

Green Dining hosted a small but enthusiastic group of students and current members at its Open House and reception last week in the Garden Room. We handed out the new and improved coffee discount cards, handy Monterey Bay Aquarium sustainable seafood pocket guides, and assorted resuable bags and local ag magazines. People lingered over conversations about potential places around Grounds for satellite student gardens, the speculative environmental views that the newly elected UVa president may hold, and how to mitigate the effects of the average American's energy and water-intensive meat-heavy diet. I arranged for Catering to provide a sustainable array of appetizers: Virginia grown apples, Everona Dairy cheese, Albemarle Baking Company Bread, Black & Gold's Maya Gold (fair trade and organic certified) chocolate, and local butternut squash quiche... delightful!

Last Friday, one of those local ag magazines - Flavor, to be exact - hosted a group of faculty and staff and a few students that are involved in various aspects of research or promoting sustainable food systems here at the University. That lunch meeting was the first time we had all gathered around a table as a cohesive unit, and it was a remarkably diverse group. It's exciting to be aware of how much is already happening at UVa -- and to realize just how much more can be accomplished when we join forces across disciplines.

Yesterday, Dining hosted a Winter Carnival to welcome students back to Grounds and to start building excitement about the forthcoming EMPSU program. Aside from the cotton candy, funnel cakes, prizes, and Wintergreen Resort mascot, Green Dining had a booth where Laura (Dining Sustainability Intern) and I promoted a variety of sustainability initiatives and garnered a dozen or so additional sign-ups to the Green Dining mailing list. Hopefully we'll see some fresh faces at next week's first meeting of the semester. Speaking of which, according to the trusty doodle poll, Mondays at 1pm (as always, in Hotel E) have won out again as an optimal meeting time.

Other upcoming events include a free screening of Fresh at the downtown Jefferson Madison Regional Library this Thursday (1/28) at 7pm, which includes a presentation by Joel Salatin. Next weekend, the 2nd annual Southeast Youth Food Activist Summit is taking place at UNC's campus in Chapel Hill; it seeks to bring students together from the region to have a conversation about sustainable food and, in particular, to strategize ways to bring it into college dining halls.

I'll close with a mention of another small change that's coming to dining retail locations at UVa: bulk sugar dispensers. The first few containers are already out at Alderman Cafe, and are on their way in the West Range Cafe as well. If it's smooth sailing, they'll be added elsewhere, as well. As small a gesture as it may seem, the good news is that even the little things add up quickly at a large University like this one.


New and Improved

Happy New Year! While Grounds has mostly gone into hibernation over this long and cold break, Dining has stayed busy prepping for the spring semester.

To kick things off, Green Dining is hosting an Open House on Tuesday, January 19th, from 7-8:30pm in the Garden Room (directly above the West Range Cafe). This'll be in part a chance for Dining to express thanks to the group members that attended meetings and lent valuable insight to sustainable dining issues throughout the fall. This will also provide an opportunity for curious students/staff/faculty to learn about the work Green Dining does in a more informal setting. It'll be entertaining and informative! Light refreshments will be provided.

That evening will also coincide with the release of Dining's new (and very brief) reusable to-go container survey. The survey can be filled out by both participating or non-participating students, in-person or online at a forthcoming url. The survey responses will give Dining important feedback ways to improve the current program.

There are a couple of updated promotional materials that will be ready in time for the spring semester: the Sustainable Dining brochure has been edited to reflect some of the recent changes to our program. Copies of the brochure will start appearing around Grounds in the next week or so. Additionally, due to popular demand, Dining has expanded the coffee mug discount card program to include hot tea and soda. Now your Reusable Mug Loyalty Card can be punched for coffee, tea, or soda. The same concept still applies: purchase eight (of the aforementioned types of) drinks with your reusable mug, get two refills free. Pick up the new discount card at all UVa Dining locations.

Though there are quite a few other projects coming down the pipe, I am waiting to announce them once they've been confirmed more concretely or implemented. Stay tuned for further developments...