The Fresh Food Company kitchen has collected organics for composting for many years. In 2009-’10, this resulted in the diversion of more than 165 metric tons of waste.
Dining Services is responsible for all food and drink provided at Carleton University with the exception of the three establishments run by the student unions and Treats in the CTTC.
Dining Services has initiated various successful sustainability focused projects. For example,
- Trayless dining: The Fresh Food Company, switched to trayless dining in 2009. Among other benefits, this resulted in less wasted food, water and energy savings from no longer washing trays and economic and resource savings from no longer needing to provide and replace trays.
- Composing: The Fresh Food Company kitchen has collected organics for composting for many years. In 2009-’10, this resulted in the diversion of more than 165 metric tons of waste. In January 2011, organics collection also began in food service preparation areas in the University Centre.
There is no single solution for sustainable food. Products must be individually evaluated using a number of criteria. It can be complicated and challenging at a household level and is very challenging when considering the complexities of serving thousands of people at an institutional level. Currently, for example, cageless eggs are used by Dining Services in their Baker’s location. This ensures that chickens are less stressed in the production of the eggs. Fair trade coffee is available at all locations. When available, local produce is sourced and used in the kitchens. Vegetarian and vegan options have also expanded in the Commons Building.
Sustainability Criteria could be summarized as:
- Local: Food that is sourced within a 400-km range of Carleton University.
- Eco-sensitive: Use food that is produced with a minimum of chemical input to reduce the damage to human and ecosystem health.
- Humane: Be attentive to healthy, comfortable conditions for animals.
- Fair: Work with suppliers that are sensitive to fair labor conditions for their employees.
How can you… be more sustainable?
Buy local/seasonal/organic food
Buying locally grown food directly supports local farmers and keeps cash in the local economy. Locally produced food is more likely to be farmed in a socially sustainable way, and on local levels it is possible to know how produce and meat has been grown or raised.
Buying organic can also make a difference as this mode of farming avoids chemical pesticides that leach into the soil and pollute the ground and water. Additionally, organic farms do not use antibiotics or inject their animals with steroids, thus making organic farming more environmentally friendly than traditional factory farming.
What can you do?
- Center your meals on seasonal ingredients, which are more likely to be grown closer to home
- Check your grocery stores for organic produce section
- Attend the weekly farmer’s markets in the Ottawa region
Eat one or more vegetarian meal than you normally would
Vegetarian diet requires the least amount of fossil fuels to produce and therefore results in the least amount of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere. Meat production requires far more land and water to produce than vegetarian foods, so by simply reducing your meat consumption you can have a great positive environmental impact.
What can you do?
- Try replacing one meal a week with a meatless equivalent
Start a kitchen compost bin
Over 36 million tons of food waste reaches our landfills each year, about six times the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza. When food is thrown into landfills, it rots and becomes a significant source of the greenhouse gas methane.
However, as food is for the most part organic, there is no need to send food waste into landfills. Composting food waste can return valuable nutrients into the soil, reduce the volume of our landfills, and reduce the amount of chemicals leached from landfills.
Take your own reusable bags when grocery shopping
Canadians consume around 14 billion plastic bags every year. To produce these bags, Millions of gallons of water and crude oil are used every year. But the problem with plastic bags does not end with its production: once in a landfill, most plastic bags are likely to never fully biodegrade. Instead, tiny toxic particles break away from the bags and leach into our soil and water supplies. Plastic bags are also dangerous for wildlife. Reusing plastic bags or using reusable bags can help reduce the effects of plastic bag use.
What can you do?
- Purchase your own reusable bags, and remember to take them next time you go shopping
- At some stores, using reusable bags gives you a discount off of your purchase and saves you money
- If you forget your reusable bag, save the plastic bags from the grocery store and recycle them at the store when you return
Eat food before it spoils
Only take what you know you will eat. According to the American EPA, food scraps account for 13.9% of our garbage. Around 30-40% of the food produced in Canada is thrown away, so by consciously choosing food and eating it before it spoils, you can take control of a large portion of the waste you produce. All food takes resources to produce, and so we can make our resource use more efficient by eating everything we purchase.
What can you do?
- At a restaurant or buffet, take only what you can eat
- When at the grocery store, buy only what you can eat in the week or store safely
- Make a plan of what you will eat each week to make your grocery shopping and food use more efficient
- Use “bad” vegetables or meat scraps to create broths for soups or other dishes