December 18, 2013

College campuses leading the way on food sustainabilityIn the battle to spread sustainable food practices throughout the United States and beyond, college campuses have become an important front. With millions of young people getting the majority of their meals on or near college campuses every day, encouraging them to be conscious about the environmental effects of their choices, and providing those kinds of options, is crucial.

UT-Arlington leading the way
The University of Texas, Arlington, is giving the school’s flagship campus in Austin a few lessons in food and environmental sustainability. It is one of three colleges in the country to be part of the Global Reporting Initiative, a nonprofit organization that promotes economic sustainability, according to

That participation has helped the university institute policies and procedures that anyone who has taken Texas culinary classes might want to adopt in their home or professional kitchen. Some of UT-Arlington’s most notable amenities and accomplishments include:

  • An organic community garden that serves students and local residents and provides green space to the community.
  • An award-winning composting program that processes more than 32 tons of waste from on-campus dining facilities annually.
  • The university’s aggressive energy conservation efforts stretch back to 1974, and include things like retrofitting dining services equipment to improve efficiency and the pursuit of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for many of its buildings.

As efforts like these prove successful in Arlington, they are sure to spread not just to the campus in Austin but many other schools across the country as well.

Food service providers being forced to institute sustainability measures
Aramark and Sodexo are two of the largest food service providers to campuses across the country, and as such they have come under increasing pressure to incorporate sustainable practices in their business models.

As the sustainable food movement has become a big issue on college campuses, these two companies often pushed back against greater transparency and accountability initiatives. But it’s gotten to the point that companies can no longer succeed in the industry unless they become more environmentally friendly.

According to, Aramark has already lost two contracts – at Brandeis University and Johns Hopkins University – because of student activism aimed at reforming their practices. Sodexo, on the other hand, recently signed a national agreement with the Real Food Challenge to provide purchasing invoices to students who want to calculate the sustainability of their dining services.

College campuses are often incubators for civic movements, and sustainable food has proven to be no different. It appears that both universities and the companies that provide them with their dining services will soon have to get on board or risk watching their business go stale.