Dining halls apply additional sustainability measures

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Sadler Center Court, Marketplace, the Commons, College Catering receive green designation. COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

This semester, Sadler Center Court and the Commons dining halls will no longer utilize single-use plastics as one of many broader campus-wide initiatives to improve dining sustainability in spring 2020. Some of these initiatives will continue to develop and evolve well into the new decade.

Sadler Center Court Operation Manager Steve Moyer said that Sadler, the Commons and Marketplace strive to implement environmentally conscious policies envisioned by the College’s five-year Sustainability Plan, which was published in 2019. These policies include the elimination of single-use plastics, improved composting accessibility and increased vegetarian and vegan meal options. These designations recently led to these three dining halls being officially recognized as “green restaurants” according to the Green Restaurant Association.

The GRA evaluates restaurants on several metrics based on their environmental impacts. In addition to examining menus and food availability, inspectors consider everything that goes into a dining establishment’s functional operation and decide whether to categorize it as sufficiently environmentally friendly. All on-campus dining halls, as well as the College’s catering service, received a passing grade and subsequently earned a “green” designation.

“We got certified in Commons, Sadler, Catering and Marketplace. What happens is that they take a holistic approach towards certification. It’s not just food. It’s energy, it’s water, it’s waste, it’s building maintenance.”

“We got certified in four locations,” Moyer said. “We got certified in Commons, Sadler, Catering and Marketplace. What happens is that they take a holistic approach towards certification. It’s not just food. It’s energy, it’s water, it’s waste, it’s building maintenance.”

Marketplace, Sadler and the Commons all had to obtain their own certification, requiring inspectors to grade each establishment individually to ensure environmental consciousness at each location. Getting certified was a time-consuming process, with inspectors evaluating every aspect of the dining halls’ operations both inside and outside of the kitchen. Since the GRA is based out of Boston, these inspections were conducted via video conference — making for particularly lengthy phone calls.

“We got on a Skype call with them, and we went through every nook and cranny of the building,” Moyer said. “… Everything from the aerators underneath every sink. … We went through every single toilet.”

Moyer said that a core component of the green restaurant certification process was more expected — a thorough examination of Sadler’s menus and food options ensued where each aspect of dining halls’ menus were tested for their environmental sustainability.

“We went through our menus, looking at how much vegan and vegetarian we serve,” Moyer said. “We got points because, obviously, we have a partnership with a farm, we grow a lot of our vegetables, we have bees so we have local honey, we’re one of the largest composters in the state of Virginia.”

“We went through our menus, looking at how much vegan and vegetarian we serve,” Moyer said. “We got points because, obviously, we have a partnership with a farm, we grow a lot of our vegetables, we have bees so we have local honey, we’re one of the largest composters in the state of Virginia.”

These policies contributed to Sadler’s successful certification as a green restaurant, alongside other dining options at the College. The GRA’s certification rubric categorizes restaurants by assigning them a “Greenpoints” score, where establishments earning at least 62 Greenpoints are classified as sufficiently “green.” Sadler earned the highest certification score of 121.03 Greenpoints, Marketplace followed with 96.75 points, Dining Services received a score of 92.75 and the Commons earned 82.63 points.

Moyer estimated that the process of making changes in preparation of the GRA inspections began last spring, where dining officials set up an initial call with the organization to begin a conversation about dining halls getting certified. Moyer said that following the exchange of questionnaires between the GRA and the College, it became more feasible to implement environmentally conscious changes that would benefit the dining halls throughout the actual certification process.

The GRA certification accompanies other changes designed to improve sustainability on campus, as set out by the College’s five-year plan for environmental commitments between 2019 and 2024. In the report, several measures are scheduled to take place in the coming years, including expansions to the College’s green revolving fund, the reduction of printed materials and increased attempts to improve biking and walking accessibility on campus.

“William & Mary’s 325-year history of exceptional academics, civic engagement, and innovation equip the university to meet the challenges of a sustainable future,” College President Katherine Rowe said in the statement. “As an institution that prepares students to be global citizens, we view our campus as a lab for generating innovative solutions to the many challenges confronting the world today – be they environmental, social, individual, or economic.”

While many of these sustainability changes have been implemented on schedule, some have been delayed due to minor administrative setbacks; the vast majority of green commitments, including those introduced in dining halls this semester, have proceeded on time.

“Work on a comprehensive recycling collection program was paused while a position was being created for a waste and recycling supervisor,” Sustainability Director Calandra Waters Lake said in an email. “With this position comes the capacity to truly dedicate time to not only building a program on time, but sustaining it.”

“Work on a comprehensive recycling collection program was paused while a position was being created for a waste and recycling supervisor,” Sustainability Director Calandra Waters Lake said in an email. “With this position comes the capacity to truly dedicate time to not only building a program on time, but sustaining it.”

One sustainability change that is taking longer to implement lies within external food franchises at the College, which are less easily managed and have lagged behind on-campus dining halls in introducing environmentally conscious policies. These outlets, like Chick-fil-A and Starbucks, face competing pressures from their company and from the College when debating the merits of environmentally sensitive policies. As the College enters a new phase of implementing sustainable measures around campus, these franchises may pose a challenge to the College’s desire for concerted environmental awareness.

“It’s tough when you get into brands because brands are brand-specific. You can’t change the Chick-fil-A cup,” Moyer said. “It’s constantly talking to brands to see where they stand on sustainability.”

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Ethan Brown
Ethan Brown '21 is The Flat Hat's 110th Editor-in-Chief. Before serving as EIC, Ethan previously was Managing Editor and an Opinions Editor. Ethan has enjoyed covering a diverse array of topics on campus, including the creation of a graduate student workers' union, Jefferson Hall's 2020 flooding, Board of Visitors tuition changes, and the provision of emergency Plan B prescriptions at the College. Beyond The Flat Hat, Ethan is an economics and government double major from Manassas, VA who enjoys long-distance running, European politics, and listening to podcasts.