Our Initiatives

As a guest, it is easy to make smart environmental choices when you dine at UVM. We know our guests want to do the right thing for the planet and we also know you lead busy lives, so our chefs and managers do a lot of the work for you behind the scenes! From sourcing local products to composting food waste, our commitment to sustainability was formalized with our Better Tomorrow Plan. The Better Tomorrow Plan includes 18 commitments for a brighter future by focusing on four key priorities: health, planet, community and our people. Learn more about the Better Tomorrow Commitments.

Sustainability - Food

UVM Dining is a committed partner in the development of a strong Vermont food system. Over the past several years, we have worked hard to increase the number of local vendors who provide food items to the campus, as well as integrate Vermont products into our core menu mix. We use both the Real Food Challenge definition of local (250 road miles) and the Vermont First definition (VT plus 30 miles), which aligns with our statewide plan, Farm to Plate. UVM Dining has also exercised a long-standing commitment to supporting Vermont companies even if the nature of their product does not allow for it to be sourced locally. For example, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Koffee Cup Bakery.

Aside from the constraints of a small state, UVM Dining’s local foods efforts are limited by the fact that Vermont’s primary agricultural output comes during the summer when most of our locations are closed. Without access to large processing and storage infrastructure, the availability of native foods dwindle in the winter and spring months. We are able to purchase and freeze some local produce through Vermont Refrigerated Storage for use later in the year. We have also looked into creative solutions like increasing cold storage on campus by building a root cellar. An undergraduate class even took the first stab at a feasibility study on having a root cellar on campus by Mapping the UVM Food System.

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.

In September 2005 Black River Produce, a North Springfield based distributor specializing in Vermont products, was certified as a supplier of produce. Black River Produce connects us with an ever-increasing network of local farms, some less than a mile from campus! 

The Interval Food Hub, located only two miles from campus, is committed to offering the best local food available in Vermont, year-round. Their community of farmers and food makers are at the heart of everything they do and most are certified organic or use other sustainable practices. Because of their close relationships with producers, they are able to provide 100% transparency and traceability so that you can get to know where your food comes from, too. Learn more about their producers.

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.

UVM Dining is a proud member of the Vermont Fresh Network (VFN). Members must purchase from at least three VFN member farmers and/or food producers and agree to source from them on a regular basis. We purchase products from about 40 VFN member farms through our local food distributors, Black River Produce and the Intervale Food Hub. Throughout all of the dining halls the VFN logo indicates our membership and dedication to working with Vermont farmers and producers. In addition, we have been a key sponsor and participant in the Vermont Fresh Network Annual Forum. 

UVM Dining is recognized as a Gold Barn Honor from VFN. To qualify as a Gold Barn honoree, we had to achieve impressive localvore standards. Each is required to source ingredients from 15 individual farm partners (10 of whom are VFN farms). Thirty-five percent of food purchases must be made from Vermont producers, or spends more than $350,000 on locally-grown/raised food product. Check out our VFN profile.

Catamount Educational Farm -UVM Dining has a partnership with UVM’s Catamount Educational Farm to purchase wholesale produce, grown by the student farmers in the Farmer Training Program, for use in our dining units. Each year, we meet with Catamount Farm staff to develop a crop plan based on our expected needs the following season. Our continued support helps enable the growth of 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. Chefs order on a weekly basis to ensure that UVM students and staff always have a consistent stock of Vermont's most famous product.

C.R.E.A.M. Program - Through a partnership with UVM C.R.E.A.M. (a student run dairy herd), Wilcox Dairy, Black River Produce, St. Albans Coop and Agrimark, UVM Dining is excited to start offering a signature ice cream on campus, made by Wilcox Dairy with milk from UVM's own dairy cows!

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

We know that students are busy and often must eat on the run. This need makes to-go dining very popular on our campus but also generates massive amounts of waste. Much of this waste is diverted from landfills by utilizing recyclable and compostable packaging, but EcoWare aims to avoid the use of this packaging altogether by shifting from single-use to reusable containers.


  1. Take your cow tag to the food station of your choice at any of our participating locations. Upon making your menu selection, hand the cow tag to the server at that station and they will serve your meal into a clean EcoWare container. For soup or salad bar serve yourself into one of the containers at the station, hand cow tag to the cashier at checkout.
  2. Time to pay for your food! When the cashier rings you up they will apply a 25¢ discount (approximately how much a disposable container would have cost us) every time you use your EcoWare. 
  3. Enjoy your meal, empty the container and return it to one of our drop off locations or the cashier at any of the participating EcoWare locations. They will take your dirty container and give you another cow tag.
  4. Now the cycle repeats and you save money and the environment by using your container again and again!


  1. Let the cashier know that you would like to take food to go and present them with your cow tag. The cashier will give you an EcoWare container (soup or box, whichever you prefer) when they swipe you into the dining hall. 
  2. Now fill the container with whatever you would like, from any station. Keep in mind that the container must close, but you can still choose to take a piece of hand fruit as well. 
  3. No need to stop back at the cashier stand, just exit and enjoy your meal. There is no 25¢ discount for using EcoWare in resident because the reusable container is not replacing a disposable option.
  4. When you're finished, empty the container and return it to the cashier or greeter at any of the participating EcoWare locations. They will take your dirty container and give you another cow tag.
  5. Now the cycle repeats and you will reduce your environmental footprint by using your container again and again!
  6. EcoWare in Resident Dining is available Monday - Friday for breakfast and lunch only.

Sporks are reusable utensils that have a spoon, knife and fork component. Sporks were first sold on campus through Eco-Reps at special events like farmers markets. When they first started on campus in fall 2010, UVM Dining agreed to offer a 5¢ discount to students using a reusable spork instead of a single-use utensil in an effort to reduce the waste created from single-use plastic utensils.  

These colorful sporks have been slowly gaining popularity ever since they were introduced but their availability was too limited. In an effort to reduce the use of single-use utensils, UVM Dining sold sporks in the dining units as a pilot in January 2013. The sporks were available to purchase with student’s meal plan points instead of just cash as they had been sold before through Eco-Reps. The pilot was very successful and sporks are now available for purchase at all UVM Dining retail locations around campus for $1.00 – a price that we subsidize with the help of UVM Waste Management. We still offer the $.05 discount so the spork pays for itself after 20 uses!

Touch screen fountain beverage dispensers called Freestyle machines, were introduced to campus in 2015. Freestyle features over 100 different beverage choices with over 70 being low or no calorie (including flavored water, seltzer and flat unflavored water). This variety far exceeds the number of healthy choices a traditional fountain beverage machine offers.  

The Freestyle machines operate using ValidFill technology. ValidFill uses RFID technology placed on drinkware to deliver a new level of intelligent beverage dispensing. This technology makes it possible to offer a controlled prepaid refill program, in a reusable bottle, to our customers allowing us to offer an unlimited beverages program for an entire semester at a low cost to the customer while reducing the number of disposable cups, straws, bottles and cans from entering the waste stream. 

By using the Validfill technology we are able to track the number of users, customer preferences and the number of cups saved from the landfill. Freestyle bottles can be purchased at The Marketplace, Marche or Redstone Market!

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. Each day, almost two tons of pre- and post-consumer food scraps and compostable packaging is collected from our dining locations and then transported to the Green Mountain Compost facility. 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 even some of the local farmers who grow produce for our kitchens.

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 work hard to limit excessive packaging. When we do use packaging, we use recyclables or compostable products that are in line with preferences of Chittenden County Solid Waste District. We never use Styrofoam on-campus and we encourage students to participate in our reusable to-go container program, EcoWare.

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. 

We support the use of reusable mugs on-campus. Customers who use reusable mugs are discounted up to 25¢ off up to 20 ounces for  coffee and fountain beverage options as part of the One Less Cup discount campaign.