Our Initiatives

Sustainability is a longstanding core value here at UVM Dining. It is woven into everything we do, from purchasing local and sustainable foods, providing a variety of plant-forward options, reducing food packaging and waste, to giving back to our community. We know that our students and community care about where their food comes from and how it is prepared. Our chefs work hard to source local ingredients and offer recipes that are both good for your health and socially and environmentally responsible.

Learn more about our commitments and initiative by exploring the topics below.

Sustainability - Food

UVM Dining has a long history of partnering with local farmers, producers, and distributors to help build and maintain a strong local and regional food system. Local food not only taste great; they help support the local economy, the working lands of Vermont and reduce the number of miles that food travels before it gets to our plate.

We partner with Black River Produce and the Intervale Food Hub, who provide local, regional, and sustainable produce, dairy, meat, and specialty foods to campus. We are also proud to support UVM's agricultural programs, including Catamount Farm, UVM Dairy Bar, and Proctor Maple Research Center. 

UVM Dining is a proud member and recognized Gold Barn Honoree of the Vermont Fresh Network (VFN). To qualify as a Gold Barn honoree, we must achieve impressive localvore standards, including sourcing ingredients from 15-individual farm partners (10 of who are VFN farms). Additionally, 35% or over $350,000 of food purchases must be made from Vermont producers or locally grown/raised food products. We purchase products from about 40-VFN member farms through our local food distributors. We are also a key sponsor and participant in the Vermont Fresh Network Annual Forum. Check out our VFN profile.

The Real Food Challenge is a national student movement that leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system. The national campaign aims to shift $1 billion of existing university food budgets from conventional food to real food by 2020. Real food, as defined by the Real Food Challenge, is food which truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth by fitting into at least one of the following four categories:

1. Local and Community-Based: These foods can be traced to small farms or businesses that are locally owned and operated. Sourcing these foods supports the local economy by keeping money in the community and builds community relations. The food travels fewer miles to reach consumers. The food is seasonal, and when it is fresh, it often has a higher nutrient content.

2. Fair: Individuals involved in food production, distribution, preparation - and other parts of the food system - work in safe and fair conditions; receive a living wage; are ensured the right to organize and the right to a grievance process; and have equal opportunity for employment. Fair food builds community capacity and ensures and promotes socially just practices in the food system.

Ecologically Sound: Farms, businesses, and other operations involved with food production practice environmental stewardship that conserves biodiversity and preserves natural resources, including energy, wildlife, water, air, and soil. Production practices should minimize toxic substances as well as direct and indirect petroleum inputs.

Humane: Animals can express natural behavior in a low-stress environment and are raised with no hormones or unnecessary medication.

In March 2012, UVM became the first school in the east and the fifth school in the nation to sign the Real Food Challenge Campus Commitment, a commitment to serve 20% real food by 2020. UVM Dining works closely with the Real Food Working Group to review our invoices and categorize our food spending using the Real Food Challenge Guidelines. In 2017, UVM was the first public land grant institution to surpass the Real Food commitment. We recommitted to a new goal of 26% by 2020, we are proud to report in 2019 we reached 25%! 

Visit UVM’s Real Food Challenge to learn more.

UVM Real Food Challenge Campus Commitment makes the news! 

In 2012, we began working collaboratively with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund on how to strategically grow the local food market share at Vermont institutions.  We had a unique opportunity to work with our partners to develop a best practice model to build on the great work that is happening at UVM and across the State.  In 2014, we launched ‘Vermont First’, our commitment to increase local food sourcing across Vermont campuses and healthcare institutions. Visit our value statement to learn more.

Vermont Farm to Plate the statewide initiative legislatively directed to increase economic development and jobs in Vermont’s farm and food sector and improve access to healthy local food for all Vermonters. A ten year plan to strengthen the working landscape, build the resilience of farms and food enterprises, improve environmental quality, and increase healthy, local food access for all Vermonters is being implemented by over 350 farm and food sector organizations from across the state.

UVM Dining commits to supporting the production and purchase of local food across Vermont in order to accomplish Farm to Plate goals: to increase the amount of Vermont food products consumed by Vermonters, local food production, and the amount of locally produced food available in Vermont institutions.

Catamount Educational Farm -UVM Dining has had a partnership with UVM’s Catamount Educational Farm since its inception in 2014. During the fall, we purchase organic vegetables and apples from the farm, which are grown and harvested by the student farmers in the Farmer Training Program. We meet with Catamount Farm staff each year to develop a crop plan based on our expected needs for the following seasons. Our continued support helps grow this academic program and strengthens our local food system.

Proctor Maple Research Center - In the fall of 2015, UVM Dining began exclusively purchasing maple syrup from UVM's Proctor Maple Research Center, located in Underhill, Vermont. Chefs order weekly to ensure UVM students and staff always have a consistent stock of Vermont's most famous product.

UVM Ice Cream - Through a partnership with UVM C.R.E.A.M. (a student-run dairy herd), Wilcox Dairy, Black River Produce, Kingdom Creamery, and Agrimark, we proudly serve ice cream on campus made with milk from UVM's own dairy cows! You can find UVM Ice Cream at the UVM Dairy Bar in the Davis Center, Redstone Dining, Harris Millis Dining, and several on-campus retail locations.

Since 2014, UVM Dining serves 100% cage-free, Certified Humane shell eggs on-campus! We continue to seek out higher welfare producers for all animal products.

UVM Dining has committed to serving sustainable seafood. UVM Dining has ben transitioning towards sustainable seafood in collaboration with our distributors for the past few years. We are committed to offering this better choice by utilizing a flexible full line of products, purchased at fair market value and sourced from providers that ensure the highest level of quality assurance and food safety along with adherence to global standards of excellence for environmental responsibility and accountability in seafood. We have adopted the Real Food Challenge definition of sustainable seafood, which includes seafood that is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and listed on Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide “Best Choices” list.

Red's Best - Red's Best is one of our primary seafood providers, committed to complete transparency in the seafood supply chain, providing a livable income for fisherpeople and creating markets for abundant, underutilized seafood species.

UVM Dining is committed to purchasing 100% Fair Trade Coffee on Campus. Of our coffee roasters featured on campus (Speeder and Earl's, Green Mountain Coffee, Vermont Artisan Coffee Co.), we only purchase their fair-trade product lines.

Additionally, Aspretto, available at Redstone Unlimited and Given Bistro is a sustainable coffee and tea line that sources from local markets accredited by the Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade Foundation or the Soil Association and internationally-recognized Fair Trade certification organizations. Aspretto uses recyclable and bio-degradable materials in packaging and utensils. Equipment wraps are made from 100% post-consumer recycled resin and all printed materials are created with vegetable inks.

Sustainability - Waste

EcoWare, our reusable takeout container program, helps increase the flexibility of meal plans and helps minimize the use of single-use containers. UVM Dining is committed to reducing packaging waste and has had an EcoWare program since 2011. Due to a low return rate of containers in the fall of 2021 (a loss of about 4,300 containers), we are changing the program to an exchange model to ensure that it is sustainable for the future. As we prepare for this change, to-go meals will be available from the dining halls at the beginning of the semester in single-use containers; as we educate the community on the changes to the program. Once the new EcoWare program begins, students will need a token or container to participate. 

All on-campus students will receive one complimentary EcoWare membership (token and keychain clip). These items can be picked up at an EcoRep EcoWare tabling event being held during the first three weeks of classes or anytime at a UVM Dining cash register. If you lose your EcoWare token or container, you will need to buy back into the program for $7.50, payable with Retail Points, Cat$cratch, or credit/debit at the register.

In the Traditional Dining Halls

EcoWare is available every day for students to take one meal to-go per meal period from the traditional dining halls.

  1. Give your EcoWare token to the cashier and ask for an EcoWare container (a flat box or soup container). If you'd like to also dine-in, please inform the cashier, and they will have you swipe for that meal too.
  2. Fill your EcoWare with food from the dining hall (we ask it close).
  3. Leave the dining hall and enjoy your meal.
  4. Empty (and if possible, rinse) and return your dirty EcoWare container to any EcoWare return bin located in most dining locations. You will receive a new token (or container if you are ready for another meal to-go). 
  5. Repeat to continue to participate in the program.

In the Retail Locations: Choose to ReUse!

Opt for your meal to be served in EcoWare (where available). It's good for the environment and your wallet!

  1. Give your EcoWare token to the cook/server and ask for your meal to be served in EcoWare, (a flatbox or soup container). Unfortunately, this option is not available on our Bite U app.
  2. Save 25 cents at the register.
  3. Enjoy your meal.
  4. Return your dirty container to an EcoWare return bin, located in most dining locations, and you will receive a new token. 
  5. Repeat to continue to participate in the program.
EcoWare containers are leak-resistant, BPA-free, dishwasher/microwave/freezer safe, and can be used up to 300 times. They are made from 20-30% recyclable materials. At the end of their lifecycle, UVM Dining will recycle them (#5 plastic).
  • Starting spring semester 2022, we will welcome reusable coffee mugs (up to 24 ounces) at our UVM Dining retail locations. Choose to ReUse and save 25 cents off the price of a large coffee.
  • Save 25 cents when you use EcoWare at one of our retail locations (where available).
  • Save 5 cents when you bring a spork (reusable spoon/fork). Need a spork? They are sold at select UVM Dining retail locations.
  • Choose reusable plates and silverware instead of disposable options.

UVM is one of the first public universities in the country to end the sale of bottled water (the flat and unflavored variety) on-campus. Burlington, Vermont provides safe, clean drinking water to campus, thus providing bottled water from another community is not necessary. Ending bottled water sales will also reduce the amount of waste generated from the purchase and disposal of plastic bottles, which has reached numbers in excess of 350,000 per year at UVM before a sustained student campaign shifted many students' habits, reducing sales by about a third. To learn more visit UVM's Office of Sustainability.

Ending the sale of bottled water makes the news!

In collaboration with UVM and in accordance with Vermont's Universal Recycling Law we divert all of our organic waste from the landfill. All of our compost goes to the Green Mountain Compost facility at Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD). There, the food scraps from UVM are layered with other organic waste and mixed with wood chips, which help in the composting process. The resulting compost is then sold to garden centers, nurseries, landscapers and the local community.

Effective January 1, 2022, CSWD will no longer accept compostable foodware and packaging (cups, utensils, plates, straws, etc.) in their compost stream; they will continue to accept food scraps and napkins. CSWD has found that compostable packaging poses issues to their operations and degrades the quality of their compost and other soil products. UVM Dining is working with UVM Recycling and Zero Waste and Office of Sustainability to redesign the waste sorting areas on campus and to educate our community about this change. UVM Dining will convert existing compostable packaging to recyclable alternatives whereever possible, and encourage the use of reusables such as EcoWare, refillable mugs and sporks.

With the help of UVM Waste Management, we have been recycling since before recycling was cool! All of our dining locations use single stream recycling to divert cardboard, paper, metal, glass and plastic from the landfill. Not only does our staff recycle behind the scenes, our dining room all feature recycling bins and signs providing our customers with direction on how to properly sort their recyclables.

Learn more about UVM's composting and recycling.

Since 2007, we have been teaming up annually with Eco-Reps and UVM Waste Management to quantify the food waste in our resident dining halls. The study takes place for 4-days during the peak dinner times each night. The waste is weighed and divided by the number of patrons who entered the dining hall during the designated time when we were collecting waste to estimate ounces of waste per person.

In addition, Eco-Reps observe and look for trends to help interpret the data. For example, during one of the dinners, chicken wings were being served. The weight of the bones, an inedible food waste, could have contributed to the higher weight.

UVM Dining is verified by the Food Recovery Network as a location that sends surplus food to people, not landfills! We proudly display our Food Recovery Verified decal at the entrance of our locations and work to divert as much excess edible food to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf as possible. In the first year of our program we donated approximately 15,000 lbs of food. The environmental impact of these donations is demonstrated by the reduction of compostables sent to the compost facility from the dining locations in our student center.

We do our best to limit excessive packaging and are proud to only offer straws "upon request." When we do use packaging, we use recyclables or compostable products that are in line with preferences of Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD). We never use Styrofoam on-campus. Effective January 1, 2022, CSWD will no longer accept compostable foodware and packaging (cups, utensils, plates, straws, etc.) in their compost stream; they will continue to accept food scraps and napkins. CSWD has found that compostable packaging poses issues to their operations and degrades the quality of their compost and other soil products. UVM Dining will convert existing compostable packaging recyclable alternatives whereever possible, and encourage the use of reusables such as EcoWare, refillable mugs, and sporks to minimize the impact of this change.

Trayless dining is a strategy to reduce food waste. Not having a tray limits the amount of food patrons can carry at one time. Without trays, patrons are less likely to serve themselves more than they can eat, which significantly reduces food waste. Trayless dining also decreases the amount of water and energy used for washing trays.

Our dining facilities produce approximately 150-200 gallons used cooking oil each month. We have been diverting our waste oil since 2000. Today, the oil is taken to Smart Fuel America in New Hampshire, which blends it into a biofuel. The biofuel is then used to power a paper mill in Brattleboro, Vermont, the first in the nation to solely use vegetable fuels to run its plant. Visit UVM Recycling & Waste Management for more information on UVM Dining's vegetable oil collection history.