EPA Recognizes Wesleyan for Reducing, Diverting Food Waste

As part of Wesleyan's sustainability efforts, the Wesleyan Student Association Dining Committee removed all trays from the Usdan Marketplace in 2009. The "traylessness" action is one way Wesleyan has worked to reduce food waste. 

As part of Wesleyan’s sustainability efforts, the Wesleyan Student Association Dining Committee removed all trays from the Usdan Marketplace in 2009. The “traylessness” initiative is one way Wesleyan is working to reduce food waste at the university.

For the third year in a row, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded Wesleyan with a Regional Food Recovery Achievement Certificate for its efforts reducing and diverting food waste. Wesleyan is among 26 organizations and institutions to receive the honor in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

This also is the third year Wesleyan has participated in the EPA’s New England Food Recovery Challenge.

“These organizations are showing that protecting the environment, saving money and feeding the hungry can go hand in hand,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “It’s true year-round, but especially important to keep in mind during the holidays when family and friends gather to enjoy celebratory meals, that our food should feed people and not landfills.”

According to Wesleyan’s Sustainability Director Jennifer Kleindienst, Wesleyan continues to improve its compost-to-trash ratio is Usdan’s dining facilities. “This is due to a number of factors, the best I can see is improved understanding of what is/isn’t compostable and switching to all compostable disposable products in dining locations,” Kleindienst said. “We’ve been doing a lot to reduce food waste and our compost interns and Eco Facilitators have been busy talking to fellow students about what is/isn’t compostable and how they can play a role.”

Wesleyan offers several sustainability initiatives in the area of dining and food. Highlights include Bon Appétit’s Farm to Fork program—a company-wide initiative requiring all cafés to purchase at least 20 percent of ingredients from small, local, owner-operated vendors and farmers within a 150-mile radius of campus—and the Real Food Campus Commitment, signed by President Michael Roth in 2012, which pledges to to buy 20 percent “real food,” defined as “local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound, and/or humane” by 2020.

Other initiatives include:

  • Since 2014 at the Reunion and Commencement All-College Picnic, Wesleyan has served a (nearly) zero-waste buffet-style lunch. With the exception of potato chip bags, everything is composted or recycled, significantly reducing waste from the previous boxed lunches.
  • Wesleyan’s Dining Service, Bon Appétit, offers an Eco-to-Go Program at Usdan and Summerfields dining halls. Students and employees who wish to join the program pay a one-time $5 fee to buy-in, which gives them access to reusable containers from that point forward. About 400-500 students participate in the program each year.
  • Bon Appétit operates a reusable mug program, which gives students and employees a 10 cent discount on a cup of coffee at Pi Café and Usdan Café. Anyone who purchases a Wesleyan reusable mug in the Cardinal Technology Store gets a 10 percent discount on the mug and on any cup of coffee they purchase on campus using the mug.
  • No trays are used in any dining halls.
  • Student volunteers in the Food Rescue Program collect food that is normally wasted from Pi Cafe, Summerfields and Usdan and take it to Eddy Shelter, an emergency shelter near campus. Students also organize, prepare and participate in community dinners at the shelter.
  • Through Bread Salvage, students pick up unsold bread products from Freihofer’s Bread Company and deliver them to schools in Middletown each week.
  • Since 2010, student interns have managed a residential composting program for apartment, program house, and wood-frame residents. This program was expanded to dorms in 2014.
  • Pre- and post-consumer composting is collected daily from Usdan and Summerfields dining halls. Each year, 17 tons of pre-consumer food scraps are sent to Long Lane Farm, and 25 tons of post-consumer scraps are sent to Harvest in Ellington, Conn. for composting.

The Food Recovery Challenge is part of EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program, which seeks to reduce the environmental impact of materials throughout its entire lifecycle. Organizations setting food waste reduction goals under the Food Recovery Challenge are helping to achieve the United States’ first-ever National wasted food reduction goal of 50 percent reduction by 2030.

In the 2015 EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge, participants diverted over 691,000 tons of wasted food from entering landfills or incinerators. Of this National total, almost 302,000 tons of food was donated to feed people in need. Since 2011, Food Recovery Challenge participants have reported diverting nearly 2.2 million tons of food through a variety of activities on the food recovery hierarchy.