Campus dining facilities have taken major strides in environmental friendliness over the last five years, says Michael Oshman, CEO of Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a nonprofit organization that issues sustainability certifications.
The association, which has certified dining halls at over 50 colleges and universities, ranks facilities on a four-tier system: Level 1, or 2, 3 or 4 stars. Those rankings are based on GreenPoints, which are awarded to facilities with a certain percentage of sustainable items in several categories.
Boston University has seven certified restaurants (more than any other college or university) and the GRA has verified the institution has the greenest food court in the nation.
The university’s 3-star facilities include a full-service Starbucks licensed store, a food court with 11 restaurants and two dining halls, one with 18 food stations and the other with over 20.
A full-service restaurant, a full-service cafÁ© and bakery, and a third dining room (featuring two floors of service, a fresh pasta machine, tandoor ovens, over 900 seats and a working fireplace) earned 4 stars.
Administrators launched the certification process at dining rooms because of their high levels of traffic and because they use the most food, water and electricity, says David Elliot Frank, head of dining service sustainability.
The food court in the student union also made the list because it already had sustainable products, including Energy Star appliances, green-seal-certified chemicals, compostable packaging and reusable mugs, which would lower the overall investment in purchasing additional items.
A GRA consultant visited each location to recommend changes and upgrades required for minimum certification. The scope of work was in part determined by officials from multiple departments—such as facilities and human resources.
“We have been seeing reduction in pre-consumer waste and post-consumer waste, such as trimmings, because we’ve bought better equipment,” says Frank, adding that the university was recently recertified in 2016-17.
Colleges with smaller budgets can pursue similar sustainable options because the certification standards are customizable, he says. There are discounts for certifying multiple locations at once, for example. “You can find a solution that’s effective and not invasive to your current business model.”