Reuse & Recycling

Trayless Dining

Columbia Dining went trayless in all dining halls in Fall 2009. Removing 1,400 trays resulted in an estimated savings of 3,000 gallons of water per day and approximately 50 pounds of food waste per meal. 

The Doe Fund

Columbia Dining recovers and recycles about 4,000 gallons of cooking oil annually through The Doe Fund, whose Ready, Willing and Able program trains men for future employment – and gives them immediate employment in picking up cooking oil from restaurants and other dining locations. They then work with METRO Biofuels to recycle the oil into biodiesel fuel.

Surplus Goods

Columbia Dining and University Event Management donate surplus kitchen equipment, including pots, pans, dishware, restaurant equipment, tables, and chairs to YES! Solutions, a local agency. These goods are distributed in the five boroughs of New York City.

Service Items

The estimated 6.6 million napkins used annually in Columbia Dining are made of 100% post-consumer recycled content. Biodegradable plates, bowls, hot cups, and flatware are used in all dining areas except John Jay. Reusable dishes, utensils and cups are used in John Jay Dining Hall. In 2018, Columbia Dining transitioned to 100% compostable paper straws and plant based cold cups.

Reusable Containers

Columbia Dining provides reusable eco-containers for to-go food. Students on a meal plan receive a free token to exchange for an eco-container. The American-made, polypropylene containers are microwave and dishwasher safe, with microbial protection to control stains and odor-causing bacteria. At the end of their useful life, the containers are recyclable.

At all Columbia Dining Blue Java Coffee Bar retail locations, customers who purchase a reusable mug receive a discount on coffee or tea purchased using the mug. Students and staff receive coffee refills for 99 cents, whatever the size of the mug.

Bottles, Cans, Cardboard

Dining recycles more than one million bottles and cans, as well as more than 150,000 cardboard boxes each year.