Local and Sustainable
Since 2007, Columbia Dining has made a public commitment to sustainability. Our goal is to try to keep our biological systems diverse and productive through environmental and resource management. From reducing facility and operational impact to developing partnerships with local farms, Dining continues to make strides both large and small.
We work with Energy Star, a government-backed program helping businesses protect the environment through superior energy efficiency, to develop an energy strategy. All new equipment is manufactured to use the latest energy-saving technology and environmentally safe coolants. We also perform regular preventive maintenance, including cleaning all filters to help the units run cooler and more efficiently. We also use Humitech moisture reducers in the coolers to increase energy efficiency, use less power, maintain cooler units, and increase the useful life of fruit and vegetables.
As a next step, we will look to systematically audit our equipment to replace inefficient, older equipment with new Energy Star-efficient appliances.
John Jay Dining Hall donates all un-served food to City Harvest, a non-profit with the mission to end hunger in New York City and the surrounding boroughs. They pick up prepared and perishable food from food service organizations and deliver it to food programs for those in need. They also collect and store non-perishable items for these programs, and individuals, to pick up. In addition to food, Columbia Dining donates surplus kitchen equipment, including pots, pans, China, and larger restaurant equipment.
Why City Harvest?
1.6 million New Yorkers currently live in poverty. City Harvest focuses on helping these people of the five boroughs of New York City. City Harvest is New York’s only food rescue organization. They state: “There is enough food in New York City for everyone to have what he or she needs. The challenge is distribution.”
Columbia University is particularly committed to supporting the Morningside Heights neighborhood; the following neighborhood agencies receive support and donations from City Harvest:
- Cluster House - Urban Pathways, 904 Amsterdam Avenue;
- Echo Apartments, 1050 Amsterdam Avenue;
- Praxis Housing Initiatives - Riverside Place 312 W. 109th Street;
- Broadway Community, 601 W. 114th Street;
- Cathedral Kitchen - St. John the Divine, 1045 Amsterdam Avenue;
- The Bridge, 248 W. 108th Street.
How the Partnership Works
Every Friday a staff member in John Jay Dining Hall gathers all the food for donation and puts it in the City Harvest-provided pans. This process takes about one hour. A call is placed to dispatch and a driver comes by later in the afternoon. They are always on time and reliable. Typically we donate about 300 pounds a week of starches, vegetables, and sometimes meat. Last year we donated a total of 10,796 pounds. Since we started working with City Harvest, we have donated a total of 90,668 pounds.
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."
Strawberry Jam & Salsa
Dining is helping to create sustainable food systems. They have partnered with Hindinger Farm in Hamden, CT to bring locally grown, processed, and packaged strawberry jam to diners in John Jay Dining Hall and Ferris Booth Commons. They have also partnered with Old Maids Farm in South Glastonbury, CT to bring locally grown, processed, and packages tomato salsa to the dining halls.
Our honey is from Ballard's Honey in Roxbury, NY, a vendor located at the Columbia Greenmarket.
All Coca-Cola products are manufactured in the Bronx.
Our purveyors provide locally grown fresh vegetables to both dining halls as well as retail units when is season. Products include: cucumbers, green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, Boston lettuce, red radishes, green, red and white cabbage, leeks, turnips, jalapeno and Serrano peppers, escarole, red bell peppers, red beets, carrots, portabella, shiitake, enoki, crimini, and button mushrooms, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, yellow squash, pumpkin, eggplant, collard greens, spinach, white and red potatoes, Swiss chard, green peppers, Italian peppers, green beans, corn, parsnips, sweet onions, zucchini, pico de gallo salsa, and green peas.
Our milk is distributed by GAF Seelig and comes locally from Clover Farms. Clover Farms has implemented a policy prohibiting the use of synthetic hormones (rBST) by its producers. In addition, the vitamins used in productions are certified GMO free. Other items manufactured and distributed locally include creamer, butter, eggs, Dannon, Chobani, Yoplait, and Fage yogurts, sour cream, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, Philadelphia cream cheese, soy milk, whipped cream, fresh lemon and lime juices, fresh orange juice, Poland Spring bottled water, bottled Tropicana orange, lemonade, and apple juices, walnuts, and almonds. All cheeses are produced locally, such as Brie, Cheddar, Swiss, Provolone, Feta, Parmesan, Manchego, Havarti Dill, and American,
Columbia Dining follows the Northeast guidelines of Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch for buying seafood. The program provides science-based recommendations so that buyers can make ocean-friendly choices. Dining buys from the "Best Choices" list, meaning that the seafood is abundant, well managed, and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways.
*51.79% of Dining food expenditures go towards local, organic, or otherwise environmentally preferable food. Honey and apples are purchased through vendors at the local green market. Annually, Dining contracts with a local farmer and canner to make all salsa and strawberry jam. Milk is local and hormone free and liquid eggs are certified humane. Coffee is roasted locally at Brooklyn Roasting Company and is fair trade, organic, shade grown, and bird friendly. All bakery and grab-and-go sandwiches are purchased from local vendors. In addition, 50% of meals served in the dining halls are vegetarian. Meatless Mondays is run every Monday at Ferris Booth Commons.
Dining partners with City Harvest to donate food. Learn more.
All our venues recycle paper, bottles, and cans through the Columbia recycling program.
Bottles & Cans
Dining recycles more than 1,000,000 bottles and cans per year. If stuffed into recyclable trash bags and laid out to form a pyramid, the pyramid’s base would be 2,500 feet across and rise to a point 50 feet high.
Dining recycles more than 150,000 cardboard boxes per year, which, stacked into a single pile, would rise 2 miles into the sky. If the boxes were laid end to end, they would create six avenues from the tip of the Bowery to the Bronx.
Dining partners with The Doe Fund through their Ready, Willing, and Able recourse recovery program in recycling trans fat free cooking oil. Columbia recycles about 4,000 gallons annually and all oil collected is recycled into biodiesel .
All the napkins we use are made completely from recycled materials. These products cost more but we believe the environmental benefit is worth it. We use about 6,600,000 napkins each year. Biodegradable plates, bowls, cups, and flatware are also used in Ferris Booth Commons.
Trayless at John Jay & Ferris Booth Commons
Along with many other college campuses across the United States, Columbia removed trays in 2009 from the dining hall in an effort to decrease our environmental footprint and become more eco-friendly. Based on past plate-scraping events, dining hall users wasted 190-450 lbs of food at every meal, just by taking too much food on their trays.
With the help of John Jay and Ferris Booth Commons frequenters, Dining now saves 3,000 gallons of water waste each day and at least 50 lbs of food waste at every meal that can be donated to City Harvest. All of these savings are able to happen just by removing trays and forcing diners to think before they make their food choices. So before you stock up on your favorite foods, just take it one plate at a time.
Reusable eco-containers are provided for students to take out food and return to the dining halls at their next visit. Each student who buys a meal plan received a free token that he or she can exchange for an eco-container. The containers are made of polypropylene and are microwave as well as dishwasher safe, with microbial protection that controls stains and odor-causing bacteria. At the end of their useful life, they are recyclable.
Reusable water bottles are given at orientation and several other events on campus throughout the year. They can be filled at the dining halls when meals are taken "to go." At all Blue Java Coffee Bar locations, customers who purchase a Blue Java mug receive a discount for all coffee or tea beverages purcashed when they bring their mug. Students and staff can also receive coffee refills at a discount with any outside reusable mug.
STARS, The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, & Rating System, is a transparent framework for self-reporting by colleges and universities that produces detailed measurements of sustainability performances. It was developed by AASHE, The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Columbia University was previously graded on the College Sustainability Report Card.
- In 2012, Columbia received an overall Gold rating from STARS. Dining received the maximum points of 6.0/6.0 based on the percentage of food and beverage expenditures devoted to sustainable food and beverages, which was 51.79%. Dining was also rated on trayless dining, recyclable napkins, reusable mug and to-go containers, vegan options, and pre and post consumer food waste composting.