ASU Sustainability Tour

I just spent several jam-packed days out at Arizona State University in Tempe, another Aramark-contracted school, taking tours, notes, and photos of the highlights of their own sustainable dining program. On the whole I am mightily impressed with what they've accomplished in the past two years -- especially as the desert isn't particularly well known for bountiful vegetable production! We spent the mojority of our time (conveniently always during the lunch hours) focused on Engrained Cafe, a retail space that was designed explicitly with sustainability in mind. This is evident in the wall hangings indicating Dining's sustainability commitment; in the sustainability-savvy staff; in the furnishings made from reclaimed materials; and, most markedly, in the ever-shifting menu with its heavy emphasis on local and sustainable ingredients. Those fresh items in the dishes were noticable: the food was delicious.

The cafe shortly after lunch rush

Some of Engrained's sustainability signage

Flatbread with local squash
Lunch was finished off with a lovely strawberry shortcake

I also made my way through several of ASU's residential dining rooms, including the one affiliated with the Barrett Honors College. All of Barrett's residents must purchase a meal plan specific to the college: this dining room serves specialty foods in the vein of gluten-free, vegetarian, and organic items. Other ASU students are welcome to eat at Barrett, but must pay a premium in addition to their regular meal swipe.

Another Sun Devil Dining location of note is their recently opened E2 retail location, an "element of Engrained." It's small, combining elements of a coffee-shop and take-out, and based on the same sustainability principles that define Engrained. E2 has its own character, but is obviously an effort to expand upon the success of ASU Dining's sustainability program as begun with Engrained.

Loved the Community Board (to the left of the menu) for students to leave messages, etc

Other trip highlights include a visit to and behind-the-scenes look at the LEED-certified Phoenix Convention Center (site of last November's Green Build conference); making the rounds at the downtown Phoenix farmers market (located next door to the Phoenix Public Market, an "Urban Grocery & Wine Bar" with an assortment of sandwiches from which we chose dinner); a lunch meeting with local farmers and distributors; and learning about ASU Dining's recent environmental outreach events and its successful employee sustainability training initiative. Lots of great ideas and efforts to bring back to Charlottesville and UVa!


UVa Sustainability Assessment

As UVa Today recently reported, the University is gearing up to re-assess its sustainability initiatives in several arenas across Grounds, including evaluating what has already been done as well as what's left to do (and how best to accomplish future goals). An exciting component of this ongoing review is that Dining has completed all of the goals established for its department back in 2006 -- this includes the establishment of a composting program, the organization of a sustainability committee (Green Dining), the removal of trays, and the recycling of used fryer oil among other points. It is worth pausing to recognize just how far we're come in these four years. Creating a paradigm shift within an institution is a tall order to say the least, but I'm proud that Dining has made such substantial progress. It's my hope that this success will give us momentum to continue in the right direction.

Over the coming weeks, sustainability representatives throughout UVa will be called on to complete the 2010 Sustainability Assessment in five categories: Water, Recycling and Waste, Dining Services, Governance and Culture, and Energy. This is sure to guide the University to significantly greater achievements by the time we reach 2014. To read more about the assessment process, see the recent UVa Today article as well as last night's NBC29 news story about our efforts.