Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 68.81
Liaison Michael Mendoza
Submission Date Jan. 4, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of Houston
OP-8: Sustainable Dining

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Melissa Halstead
Sustainability Coordinator
Office of Sustainability
"---" 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:

Balanced U is a part of the University of Houston's dining approach to social responsibility and sustainability. The program includes policies that focus on recycling, resource conservation, and waste reduction. Balanced U has four basic components; eating green, build green return green and run green. More information can be found here: https://dineoncampus.com/uh/sustainability


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor source food from a campus garden or farm?:
Yes

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

Dining services have implemented hydroponic towers in the Cougar Woods dining hall that grow leafy greens. Dining services utilizes these in house greens within various dishes.


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 UH Farmers Market launch in Fall 2017 and allow University of Houston students, staff and faculty and community members to shop for locally sourced and produced food items on campus. Besides local farmers, the market features vendors selling a wide array of locally produced items, ranging from lavender products to olive oil to kombucha to dried fruits and nuts. The farmers market is offered biweekly during the academic year. https://new.dineoncampus.com/uh/uh-farmers-market


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:

Both Cougar Woods and Moody Towers offer a variety of vegan items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Meat-free items can be found at each station in both dining facilities. In addition, Moody Towers has a vegetarian station, which often provides a vegan entrée. Each menu item is made to order, allowing patrons to customize their food to fit a vegan diet.


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:

To promote meatless Mondays, both dining halls offer sustainable sourced fished dishes.


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:

Dining hosts themed meals in conjunction with our UH Farmers Market, as well as vegan themed meals through the year, see marketing material below.


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:

Yes through the UH Farmers Market. The UH Farmers Market accepts Cougar Cash therefore students, faculty or staff can use their funds towards food options at the farmers market and are not limited to dining halls or retailers on campus.


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:

Throughout both dining halls there is signage regarding sustainable sourced seafood, cage free eggs, antibiotic free chicken, milk free of hormones, and promoting local sourced 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:

UH dining continuously conducts outreach efforts to support learning and research regarding sustainable food systems through a variety of avenues. For example, UH dining partners with one of their coffee vendors to have a open "coffee talk" which offers free coffee and discussions on sustainable sourced coffee. Lunch and learns are conducted with the Student Center sustainability committee regarding food sustainability. Additionally, a webinar was hosted through the National Association of College Auxiliary Services regarding campus farmer markets to encourage other higher education facilities.

Throughout the year UH dining partners with the Office of Sustainability such as Sustainability Fest, where dining highlights their food sustainability efforts. During sustainability week dining hosts tabling and outreach events to reduce food waste, encourage low impact food options and educates the UH community on food 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:

University of Houston Dining Service’s approach to social responsibility and sustainability is tied into our overall Balanced U wellness programming. Through a variety of innovative programs and policies, we work closely with the communities we serve to reduce the impact our operations have on the world around us. Our focus on recycling, resource conservation, and waste reduction not only helps us operate more efficiently, but it also lets us ensure that the resources we use today will be available for future generations. Our Balanced U Sustainability approach addresses four basic tenets of sustainable and socially responsible business practices. https://new.dineoncampus.com/uh/sustainability


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:

The University of Houston a Campus Kitchens program coordinated through our Honors College and UH Dining. Students take unused food from the two dining halls on campus, store the food in the Hilton College and donate it to Star of Hope. The students are all Safe Serve certified and follow the practices set forth in that certification.

Additionally, UH's Food Recovery Network recovers unused food from retail providers across campus and donate to various shelters and organization in the surround Third Ward.

Both food recovery programs are tracked and reported through the EPA food recovery challenge. In 2017 UH won the 2017 Food Recovery Challenge for colleges with the highest percentage increase from previous years. For more information please see: https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-challenge-results-and-award-winners#2017national


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:

In both dining halls on campus, Moody Towers and Cougar Woods have trayless dining systems.


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:

Through Campus Kitchens and Food Recovery Network all eatable food is donated in the dining halls and retail providers on campus. Additionally, all produce grown by the Campus Community Garden is donated to local food banks.


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:

The University contracts a cooking oil recycler that collects and turns waste cooking oil into biodiesel.

https://www.gofilta.com/


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:

Per our contractual agreement with Dining Services all pre and post consumer food waste is required to be composted - see below linked contract.


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:

The Campus Community Garden currently has 3 active compost piles. All food waste from the Office of Sustainability is captured for use in the compost. Garden staff also collect coffee grounds from campus coffee shops to further contribute to the compost. The data of what is composted is not captured.

All biodegradable waste from the Campus Community Garden (dead plants, lawn clippings, husks from harvesting, etc.) also are included in the compost piles.


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:

Both campus dining halls only provide reusable dining service-ware.


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)?:
No

A brief description of the compostable containers and service ware:

Currently there is not an available "to-go" option in dining halls.


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?:
No

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

Dining halls cannot offer this option as they already use all reusable options including plates, cups, mugs, and flatware.


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:

All dining halls recycle materials and in 2018 all condiments transitioned to bulk, eliminating all single use disposable condiments (i.e. ketchup, mayonnaise, etc.).


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.