By Lucy McKeon
While I’m sure at some point during my Tufts career I’ve seen many of you — be it standing in line at “sundae night” in Dewick-Macphie, examining Carmichael’s bountiful produce section for a choice orange, filling your reusable water bottle at one of Hodgdon Good-to-Go’s many spouts or calmly sipping a beer at Hotung Café after feasting in The Commons Deli and Grill after a hard day’s grind — I sometimes wonder how many of us know what goes on behind the scenes of Tufts University Dining Services (TUDS). Engaged in the continual hard work of providing varying (and might I say comparably damn good) options at the various eateries around campus, not to mention cleaning our dishes after many a meal, the staff members of TUDS provide us with an essential for our busy lives. And they manage to do all of this and more with the grace and determination of what Patti Klos, director of Dining and Business Services — in partnership with the Office of Sustainability — calls a “commitment as an institution to sustainable initiatives.”
One of the most impressive of such initiatives is the composting program across Tufts’ eateries, which began 10 years ago and continues to expand across dining halls, Hotung, the Mayer Campus Center, Tower Café at Tisch Library and even Tufts Catering — managed by Eric Hamel — which is present at an ever-increasing number of events. According to Klos, over 60 percent of solid waste on campus is diverted in this way, which saves the university money.
Dining halls Dewick-MacPhie and Carmichael have both improved their recycling and composting programs. John Fisher, central production manager of TUDS, oversees the composting program in the Dewick central kitchen and is responsible for reducing waste at this year’s matriculation luncheon via reusable bowls and composting leftovers. Though such changes often require extra on-site time of staff, they’re doing a remarkable job and are extremely appreciated.
According to Carmichael Dining Manager David Kelley, the uphill eating hub has at least doubled the amount of glass, metal and plastic that is recycled, which is just outstanding. Kelley explained that every day, each manager checks the bins to ensure correct separation, and “according to the truck driver, Carmichael is doing 100 percent better than other locations on campus.” He has noticed that while the two-week trayless pilot program in the dining hall has just ended — an initiative partnered by students in Tina Woolston’s Experimental College class Environmental Action: Shifting from Saying to Doing — “about 10-15 percent of students are still going trayless.” Klos deems the change manageable from a staff perspective and said that she has noticed that even students who were skeptical at first might have gained a positive feeling of contributing to energy reduction, not to mention the amount of food waste prevented by going trayless. Keep your eyes out: Word has it that plans are in the works for availability of larger cups.
Along with the dining halls, Tower Café has incorporated coffee grounds into composting, which — at our caffeine-addicted institution where we find ourselves — makes a huge difference. Brown and Brew manager David Ford provides reusable ware for in-house guests, which is great in terms of waste reduction. As previously mentioned, Hodgdon Unit Manager Mike Falconer encourages reusable mug and bottles in his establishment, offering a discount as incentive. Compostable take-out containers are now available, though the difficulty Falconer recognizes is the inability to control how the containers are disposed of once they’re taken out (that’s where y’all come in). He hopes for reusable bags in the future — much like those you see advertising Whole Foods. Get on the trend while it’s hot. The Campus Center became dear to Tufts Recycles! when Unit Manager Michael Myers collaborated with us to post graduating senior Lori Lichtman’s exquisite recycling display in the downstairs eating area. Old furniture from the Commons was donated last summer to local schools, and Hotung Café is securely onboard the Tufts composting train.
So where, I hear you ask aloud as you read this, does the initiative start? Klos let me on a little secret, which I will now share with you all. Back in 1992, Tufts worked out a strategic plan for key resolves that required administrative attention, and as it would have it, impact on the environment was one of the foremost issues. From here, Tufts Dining Services has identified opportunities for change — such as reduction of waste, energy, recycling and re usability — and has progressed in enacting change with tangible results. Learning from peer institutions, student interest and motivation and collaboration with Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE) employees like Director Sarah Hammond Creighton, TUDS continues to learn and develop more sustainable initiatives on campus.
According to Julie Lampie, Nutrition/Marketing Specialist in Dining Services, data from the annual student dining surveys shows that 42.5 percent of 1,811 respondents see recycling as of “critical” importance, 32.4 percent “very important,” 21.1 percent “important” and a minuscule one percent as not important (jokesters, please retire your pens). She told me that the Fair Trade coffee initiative began with student advocates. So if you have an idea or want to take part in the future of a more sustainable Tufts, talk to TUDS, TIE or Tufts Recycles! to get involved.
As a senior getting back into the dining hall scene with the help of a guest meal here and there this past semester, my Tufts career coming rapidly to an end — call it what you will: nostalgia, stinginess, laziness — I am met with a reinvigorated sense of being doubly impressed, as if reborn a freshman once again. We eat well here, and did I mention that we aren’t the ones doing the dishes? Thank our TUDS employees every time you get a chance. They really deserve it.Dining halls Dewick-MacPhie and Carmichael have both improved their recycling and composting programs. John Fisher, central production manager of TUDS, oversees the composting program in the Dewick central kitchen and is responsible for reducing waste at this year’s matriculation luncheon via reusable bowls and composting leftovers. Though such changes often require extra on-site time of staff, they’re doing a remarkable job and are extremely appreciated.–
Lucy McKeon graduates today with a degree in English. She was an intern at Tufts Recycles!