Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 65.89
Liaison Allie Schwartz
Submission Date Aug. 29, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Columbia University
OP-8: Sustainable Dining

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Bianca Tamburello
Dietician
Dining, Columbia University Facilities and Operations
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a published sustainable dining policy?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainable dining policy:

Columbia Dining operates with sustainability best practices at its core through sustainable purchasing, menu range, community outreach, reuse & recycling, greenmarket, EPA energy star appliances, and Green Monday.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor source food from a campus garden or farm?:
No

A brief description of the program to source food from a campus garden or farm:
---

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host a farmers market, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery program, and/or urban agriculture project, or support such a program in the local community?:
Yes

A brief description of the farmers market, CSA or urban agriculture project:

The Columbia Greenmarket is open year-round on Thursdays and Sundays and is located on Broadway along the west side of the Columbia campus from 114th Street to 116th Street. Shoppers will find milk and yogurt, fruit, cider, baked goods, preserved fruits and vegetables, eggs, cheese, smoked meats, pickled vegetables, maple syrup, honey, fish, and focaccia topped with locally sourced fruit, vegetables, and herbs and cheeses.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a vegan dining program that makes diverse, complete-protein vegan options available to every member of the campus community at every meal?:
Yes

A brief description of the vegan dining program:

Vegan options are available in all dining halls and retail units at each meal period. Vegan retail items include Rich's Cafe Whip, Larabars, Kind Bars, Kettle Cuisine vegan soups, Wonderful Pistachios, other raw nut mixes, Naked Juices, and vegan salad, sandwich, and hot food options. Vegan options at dining halls are identified through the food allergy identification key (a blue "VN" sticker next to menu items that are vegan). Menus for the dining halls are posted online at www.dining.columbia.edu, where a filter is used to sort vegan options served at each location and meal period. A "Today's Menu Highlight's Board is placed at the entrance of each dining hall to identify unique and complete vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free meal combinations for the day. At John Jay Dining Hall, there is a vegan station that features two different hot entrees like vegan chicken, curried falafels, tofu stir fry, and vegan meatballs at each meal period, along with chia and flaxseed parfait, vegan shredded and sliced cheese, white bean spread, beet spread, vegan sour cream, and tofu cream cheese. Grains like quinoa, buckwheat, kasha, millet, or couscous are served daily throughout the dining hall, along with a variety of beans. Soy milk, tofu, hummus, natural peanut butter, edamame, oatmeal, sushi, whole wheat pasta, marinara sauce, vegan composed salads, fresh/local fruit, vegan burgers, vegan soups, and tofu dogs are always available. JJ's Place serves a plant-based Beyond Meat burger, vegan black bean burgers, and options like a hummus wrap or black bean wrap. Ferris Booth Commons serves vegan chicken strips at the pasta station and offers grain bowls, soup options, oatmeal, hummus, natural peanut butter, tofu sandwiches, beans, vegan pizzas, whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce, and soy milk daily. Columbia's Registered Dietitian, Christina Lee, has developed "Christina's Course," an initiative that includes virtual newsletters, monthly nutrition tips and videos, and video tours of John Jay Dining Hall and Ferris Booth Commons that takes viewers to each station, identifying healthier options, including vegan options. At the start of the Fall 2014 semester, Columbia University initiated "Green Mondays," promoting meatless meals. Food Day is celebrated annually in October and National Nutrition Month is celebrated annually in March, including a recipe contest where students submit their favorite recipe that meets certain criteria, such as gluten free or vegan recipes.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host low impact dining events (e.g. Meatless Mondays)?:
Yes

A brief description of the low impact dining events:

Green Monday is a global sustainability initiative that was designed to promote green lifestyle choices and it is observed in the dining halls every week. Vegan options are featured throughout the dining halls and a Green Monday symbol is placed next to all vegan and vegetarian menu items. Some menu items include stuffed peppers, cajun tofu, vegan paella, and ratatouille.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host sustainability-themed meals (e.g. local harvest dinners)?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainability-themed meals:

Green Monday is a global sustainability initiative that was designed to promote green lifestyle choices and it is observed in the dining halls every week. Vegan options are featured throughout the dining halls and a Green Monday symbol is placed next to all vegan and vegetarian menu items. Some menu items include stuffed peppers, cajun tofu, vegan paella, and ratatouille. Food Day is a national initiative created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), celebrating healthy, affordable, and sustainable food choices. It is celebrated annually on October 24th by featuring a local and healthy menu, including a multitude of vegan and vegetarian options.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host a sustainability-themed food outlet on-site, either independently or in partnership with a contractor or retailer?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainability-themed food outlet:

Columbia supports the Harlem Small Business Initiative and Harlem Park to Park (HP2P), which is a social enterprise representing 100+ local entrepreneurs committed to cultural preservation, small business and economic development in Central Harlem. Every winter, Columbia Dining features a Harlem Local Vendor Show in one of the dining halls. Food Day is a national initiative created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), celebrating healthy, affordable, and sustainable food choices. It is celebrated annually on October 24th by featuring a local and healthy menu, including a multitude of vegan and vegetarian options.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor inform customers about low impact food choices and sustainability practices through labeling and signage in dining halls?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainability labeling and signage in dining halls:

A Green Monday symbol is placed next to all vegan and vegetarian menu items.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor engage in outreach efforts to support learning and research about sustainable food systems?:
Yes

A brief description of the outreach efforts to support learning and research about sustainable food systems:

The Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability (EICES) established a program in fall of 2016 called the Sustainable Food Systems Track, of the EICES Executive Education Program in Environmental Sustainability. The program provides students with a strong background in Agro-ecology and the knowledge and skills to become sound decision makers in the growing field of Sustainable Food Systems.

Upon completing the Executive Education Program in Sustainable Food Systems, students will come away with an understanding of the interactions between environmental changes (e.g. growing population, climate change), food production, and food security. They will explore how these interactions interface with ecological, economic, political, and social systems.

http://eices.columbia.edu/education-training/certificate/new-certificate-in-agrofood-systems/


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have other sustainability-related initiatives (e.g. health and wellness initiatives, making culturally diverse options available)?:
Yes

A brief description of the other sustainability-related dining initiatives:

Columbia Dining is proud to be a Level 1 Green Restaurant Certified in all of its residential and retail locations. Dining achieved this designation through an evaluation process that measures standards across water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable goods, food, energy, reusable and disposable items, and chemical and pollution reduction. In 2016, Columbia Dining was accepted into the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative. As a member of Menus of Change, Columbia Dining's mission is to advance healthier, more sustainable life-long food choices among Columbia students. This includes offering more plant-based foods in Columbia's dining halls and educating students on the benefits of a plant-based diet.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor participate in a competition or commitment program and/or use a food waste prevention system to track and improve its food management practices?:
Yes

A brief description of the food recovery competition or commitment program or food waste prevention system:

Columbia University is the first urban university to pilot with the NY Department of Sanitation Organics Collection Program to collect prep waste and front of the house closing leftovers.


Has the institution or its primary dining services contractor implemented trayless dining (in which trays are removed from or not available in dining halls) and/or modified menus/portions to reduce post-consumer food waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the trayless dining or modified menu/portion program:

Columbia Dining adopted a 100% trayless policy in all dining halls in the fall of 2009. Dining has determined an average saving of 3,000 gallons of water daily as well as approximately 50 pounds of wasted food per meal by removing 1,400 trays. The food removed from the waste stream not only has environmental benefits but it reduces the amount of food used and increases the amount of unserved food from Columbia donates each week to City Harvest, a non-profit agency whose mission is to end hunger in New York City and the surrounding boroughs. Columbia's donations have actually decreased to City Harvest, as the university is producing a significantly less amount of food waste than ever before.

Additional URL about Columbia's trayless dining program: http://www.environment.columbia.edu/newsandprofiles/traylessdiningatjohnjayyieldsimpressivegreenbenefits


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor donate food that would otherwise go to waste to feed people?:
Yes

A brief description of the food donation program:

John Jay Dining Hall, Ferris Booth Commons, Faculty House, and Catering Services donate excess food and leftovers to City Harvest, the city supplier for food banks. Typically, Columbia donates about 300 pounds a week of starches, vegetables, and sometimes meat. Smaller quantities are donated to a local homeless shelter, Broadway Community. In addition to food, Dining Services and University Events donate surplus kitchen equipment, including pots, pans, china, and larger restaurant equipment through the Institutional Recycling Network (IRN).

Columbia Dining also works with Columbia Community Impact Food Pantry. Every Friday, volunteers cook a meal for 75-100 homeless and low-income guests. Columbia Dining donates packaged items so that people who visit can go “grocery shopping.”

Lastly, the spring move-out donation drive, Give + Go Green, accepts canned goods which it also donates to food banks and local charities. Various food drives are conducted through the year, particularly in the holiday season.

Additional URLs regarding Columbia Food Donation:
http://www.environment.columbia.edu/newsandprofiles/food-donation-constant-effort-morningside-campus
http://communityimpactatcu.org/ci/programs/emergency/community-lunch


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor divert food materials from the landfill, incinerator or sewer for animal feed or industrial uses (e.g. converting cooking oil to fuel, on-site anaerobic digestion)?:
Yes

A brief description of the food materials diversion program:

All cooking oil is recycled for biodiesel fuel.

Additional urls regarding Cooking Oil Recycling:
http://dining.columbia.edu/local-and-sustainable#waste
and
http://www.doe.org/programs/?programID=1


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a pre-consumer composting program?:
Yes

A brief description of the pre-consumer composting program:

Columbia Dining is contributing pre-consumer food scraps to an in-vessel composter the Rocket, that has been installed in Ruggles Hall. It is expected to produce about 160 gallons of compost in each two-week cycle based on an estimate of 400-lbs. of food scraps. Additionally, Columbia Dining recovers and recycles about 4,000 gallons of frying oil annually through The Doe Fund’s Ready, Willing, and Able resource recovery program. All oil collected is recycled into biodiesel.

Additional urls regarding Cooking Oil Recycling:
http://dining.columbia.edu/local-and-sustainable#waste
and
http://www.doe.org/programs/?programID=1

Additional information about the Rocket composter:
http://www.environment.columbia.edu/newsandprofiles/compostingcomingtomorningsidecampus


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a post-consumer composting program?:
Yes

A brief description of the post-consumer composting program:

Members of the student-run Food Sustainability Project sometimes run a composting initiative where they compost post-consumer food waste. The group then uses the soil produced from their compost to fertilize their community garden.

Columbia Dining also recycles all used trans fat-free cooking oil. They have partnered with The Doe Fund, through their Ready, Willing, and Able resource recovery program. Columbia Dining recycles about 4,000 gallons annually and all oil collected is recycled into biodiesel.

Additional URLs with information about Columbia composting: http://gosustainable.blogspot.com/
http://dining.columbia.edu/local-and-sustainable#waste
http://www.doe.org/programs/?programID=1
http://environment.columbia.edu/newsandprofiles/compostingbegins
http://www.environment.columbia.edu/newsandprofiles/compostingcomingtomorningsidecampus
http://www.grownyc.org/compost/locations

An in-vessel composter has also been installed in Ruggles Hall. Operated by the undergraduate EcoReps, students can drop-off compost at designated times.

Lastly, Columbia hosts a NYC Greenmarket farmer’s market that has compost collection. Every Sunday, from 8am-1pm, Columbia community members can drop-off fruit and vegetable scraps, non-greasy food scraps (rice, pasta, bread, cereal etc.), coffee grounds & filters, tea bags, egg and nut shells, pits, cut or dried flowers, houseplants and potting soil that will be transported to one of several NYC compost sites. The food scraps are transformed into a fertile compost for use on local urban farming and gardening projects.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor utilize reusable service ware for “dine in” meals?:
Yes

A brief description of the reusable service ware program:

Columbia Dining provides reusable eco-containers for to-go food. In all dining halls, students who wish to carry out food are able to do so with reusable plastic containers. Each student who buys a meal plan receives a free token that he or she can exchange for an eco-container. When the student returns to the dining hall, he/she can receive a new eco-container or exchange it for a token. The containers, made of polypropylene, are made in the USA. They are microwave and dishwasher safe, with microbial protection that controls stains and odor-causing bacteria. At the end of their useful life, the containers are recyclable. Additionally, Columbia hands out BPA free, made in NYC, recyclable at end of life reusable water bottles to all first-year undergraduate residential students to reduce the purchase of disposable cups and bottles. Students can fill these with the beverage of their choice at the dining halls when they are taking meals to go. All other take away containers are BPI Certified and compostable.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor provide reusable and/or third party certified compostable containers and service ware for “to-go” meals (in conjunction with an on-site composting program)?:
Yes

A brief description of the compostable containers and service ware:

Columbia Dining provides reusable eco-containers for to-go food. In all dining halls, students who wish to carry out food are able to do so with reusable plastic containers. Each student who buys a meal plan receives a free token that he or she can exchange for an eco-container. When the student returns to the dining hall, he/she can receive a new eco-container or exchange it for a token. The containers, made of polypropylene, are made in the USA. They are microwave and dishwasher safe, with microbial protection that controls stains and odor-causing bacteria. At the end of their useful life, the containers are recyclable. Additionally, Columbia hands out BPA free, made in NYC, recyclable at end of life reusable water bottles to all first-year undergraduate residential students to reduce the purchase of disposable cups and bottles. Students can fill these with the beverage of their choice at the dining halls when they are taking meals to go.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor offer discounts or other incentives to customers who use reusable containers (e.g. mugs) instead of disposable or compostable containers in “to-go” food service operations?:
Yes

A brief description of the reusable container discount or incentives program:

At all Blue Java Coffee Bar locations, customers who purchase a Blue Java mug receive a discount for all coffee or tea beverages purchased when they bring their mug. In addition, students and staff receive coffee refills for $0.99 with their Blue Java mugs or any outside reusable mug. In John Jay Dining Hall, only reusable beverage containers are available when dining in house.

Additionally, Columbia hands out BPA free, made in NYC, recyclable at end of life reusable water bottles to all first-year undergraduate residential students at no cost to reduce the purchase of disposable cups and bottles. Students can fill these with the beverage of their choice at the dining halls when they are taking meals to go."


Has the institution or its primary dining services contractor implemented other materials management initiatives to minimize waste not covered above (e.g. working with vendors and other entities to reduce waste from food packaging)?:
Yes

A brief description of other dining services materials management initiatives:

Dining recycles all of its cooking oil, glass metal plastic and containers, mixed paper and cardboard, all delivery pallets are returned to the vendor, and a composting pilot with the City of New York Department of Sanitation as well as the in-house Rocket composting.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
---

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.