Food & Waste
Food isn't just an issue of sustainability — it's intertwined with some of the most challenging injustices of our time. Some 40 percent of all food produced in the United States ends up in a landfill, and food waste contributes 22 percent of municipal solid waste in landfills. Food production and waste are also major drivers of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
With initiatives that engage our student body, faculty and staff, as well as the larger community, we're targeting excess waste and educating our campus about recycling and composting. We're also developing new ways of sourcing the food we serve on campus, striving toward healthier options whose origins are in step with our commitment to environmental responsibility and social justice.
Tackling Food Insecurity
Food insecurity is a problem that affects communities around the world, as well as many members of our on-campus community. We believe that without equitable access to essentials like food, individuals and families will always struggle to maintain independence and improve their lives.
The DU Food Pantry works to alleviate food insecurity on campus, providing supplementary food items to anyone who has self-identified a need for our services. Students are often referred to the DU Food Pantry as they seek additional support and resources on campus. The Food Pantry accepts donations from the community, and you can help your peers by organizing a food drive in your club, department, class, organization or team, or by bringing in any extra food individually.
Swipe Out Hunger
Sodexo, our campus dining partner, accepts donations from students through their Swipe Out Hunger program, which helps provide food for those in need.
Sustainable Food Initiatives
Bridge Community Garden
Managed by faculty in the Biology Department, the Bridge Community Garden provides raised beds that faculty, staff, and students can rent for the summer growing season for a small fee. The garden provides growing space for those who may not have such space in their homes, and allows our community to learn how to grow and care for their own food together.
Managed by the Center for Sustainability, the ELC Garden offers community food-growing space for students and other individuals looking to contribute to a more home-grown paradigm. Located next to the English Learning Center on Asbury and Josephine, the ELC garden houses eight raised garden beds where we experiment with different herbs and vegetables that can serve as a cultural exchange between the international students studying at the ELC and domestic students who run the garden.
Real Food Challenge
In partnership with Sodexo, the University's primary dining vendor, we've joined the Real Food Challenge, a nationwide effort to make college campuses more sustainable and ethical in how they source and deliver food. The program has so far resulted in nearly 18 percent of our food coming from sustainable, local and ethical sources, with a goal of reaching 20 percent real food sourcing by 2020.
Sustainable Food Policy
The Sustainable Food Policy (SFP) creates concrete sustainability goals for all aspects of the University of Denver’s food system. The SFP aims to connect students, faculty, staff, and the greater DU community through education and operational practices as a way of improving the opportunity for campus food to be more inclusive, healthy, and sustainable, benefitting regional health, economy, and ecosystems.
“Food is often considered the ‘great connector.’ Food connects us to our cultures, the stories of our ancestors, and the recipes of our grandparents. Food also connects us to the land where it is grown and to the people and businesses who grow, transport, prepare, sell, or share it. Food is what brings us together as family, friends, and strangers.” – Denver Food Vision 2017
Waste Reduction at DU
Waste is often one of the most visible sustainability issues in any setting, and is often the one that gets people first interested in being engaged around sustainability. DU has worked hard to reduce waste on campus, either by avoiding the waste in the first place or by increasing diversion of materials away from the landfills to either be recycled or composted.
Nearly every building at DU is equipped with large, public recycling bins, which makes it easy to properly dispose of your waste in the proper bin. Additionally, every residence hall room comes with a personal recycling bin that students can use to sort their waste properly.
Our recycling process, known as "Altogether" or "single-stream" recycling, makes it easy for students and other community members to divert as much waste as possible into recycling programs. Glass, some plastics, aluminum, paper, cardboard, and other materials can be placed in the same recycling containers, eliminating the need for individual sorting. Just make sure your recyclables are as clean as possible.
Not sure where or how to recycle something? Check out the City of Denver Recycling Directory to see all the ways to properly dispose of just about anything - from plastics to lightbulbs to paint.
Much of the waste we typically send to the landfill can be composted into a reusable soil resource, reducing landfill waste and supporting other sustainable initiatives. Just as we provide recycling in most campus buildings, we have been working to make compost available in more buildings across campus. All residence halls have two compost bins in their lobbies, the Anderson Academic Commons has several compost bins on the main floor, and you’ll find compost in several other buildings as well: at both Ricketson Law and Daniels College of Business, in Craig and Rufatto Hall, and others.
We take materials that end up in compost bins at DU to an offsite industrial composting center, so the process is easy for you — just follow the guidelines for compostable items below:
- All food waste, including meat, bones and dairy
- Coffee grinds and filters
- Cardboard (including waxed)
- Plants and flowers
- Paper napkins and towels
- Pizza boxes/paper board
- Wooden stir sticks
- Materials labeled "compostable" (NOT biodegradable)
- Paper bags
- Waxed paper
- Green compostable trash bin liners
Interested in having compost added to your building? Check out this guide on how to.
Did you know that printing at DU used to be unlimited? While this sounds like a good thing for students, it led to literal tons of paper being wasted on campus. Several years ago, DU started giving students a printing credit to use instead, and saw dramatic decreases in how much paper was wasted every quarter. Help keep wasted paper down by being mindful about what you print!
Resident Dining Compost
All of the resident dining halls at DU compost food scraps from meal preparation, food leftover on people’s plates after they’re finished eating, as well as food that was prepared by not served. Additionally, Sodexo records how much food waste is left over after every meal, which helps them purchase and prepare the right amount of food next time they serve the same dish. This means that over time, we are significantly reducing the food we waste in the dining halls. Help do your part by only taking the food you will eat when you visit the dining halls.
One of the best ways for us to reduce our waste on campus is to understand what’s being thrown away in the first place. Students from the Center for Sustainability team up with departments and building managers to complete waste audits that thoroughly examine what is being thrown away and what waste streams can be avoided. Interested in hosting a waste audit in your office or building? The Center for Sustainability would be happy to help you create a unique team-buidling activity while learning about your waste. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zero Waste Athletics
Sports at DU are a huge contributor to waste production on campus, as they are some of the largest events we hold. However, volunteers and employees from the Center for Sustainability work at nearly every ticketed match - hockey, men’s basketball, gymnastics, men’s soccer, and men’s lacrosse - during the school year to educate fans and sort waste into the proper bins. Now, those sports boast a diversion rate over 80%, with hockey reaching an average diversion of 87%, and soccer diverting over 90% of its waste.