Chartwells, the campus’ sole dining service, commands the lead role when it comes to sustainability efforts involving food or water. Last year, the service managed students involved in post-consumer composting – sorting out compostable and non-compostable food waste from campus trash cans.
The post-consumer composting, conducted in the garage of Hamilton-Williams Campus Center was shut down this year after that garage was converted to an athletic facility. This leaves pre-consumer composting by Chartwells cooks; it’s a more efficient program, but students know less about it because they aren’t involved with it.
Known as TrimTracks by Chartwells, this composting strategy involves a rotating cycle (food waste to mulch to produce) between the dining service, composter Eartha and the student-run community garden.
In addition to food, the disposable utensils and containers in student dining areas are also compostable, said Gene Castelli, Chartwells district manager.
Additionally, the staff examines the food left behind in Smith Hall’s all you can eat buffet, through a program called Operation Clean Plate. The industry phrase for it, Castelli said, is “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” The idea is to analyze the wasted food and challenge students to do better.
In an English class project, students Mariah Bockbrader, Ellie Magner, Dixon Stoddard and Shashwat Rijal studied whether leftover food could be donated to local food pantries, rather than composted or thrown away.
As it turns out, some of it already is – Chartwells donates sandwiches, salads and baked goods to Delaware’s Common Ground Free Store every Friday; they also occasionally prepare meals. Their biggest concern, according to Castelli, is ensuring that the food they donate is still safe to eat.
According to interviews these project members did with staff at the other Ohio Five schools, Denison University and Oberlin College are the only other schools that regularly donate to food pantries.
To reduce the carbon footprint of food transportation, Chartwells buys local and organic as much as possible, from fair-trade vendors.
“Sustainability isn’t a black and white issue anymore, it’s really is encompassing and touching every aspect of the business, both from a sentiment…and from a cost thing, it’s improved dramatically,” Castelli said.
He also stressed that sustainability efforts are going to increase over time.
“Where we are today isn’t where we’re going to be in a year,” he said.