By protecting and improving our environment, the communities where we do business and the students we serve, UVM Dining makes every day a better day and every tomorrow a better tomorrow.

Waste Reduction Programs

EcoWare Program

Ecoware Meal

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.

We are excited to announce that the incoming class of 2019 will all be issued complementary EcoWare memberships to encourage a transition to a culture of reusables on campus. 

  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!
  5. Need more info? Read our detail guide.
  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) and a to-go hot or cold beverage cup 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 7:30am - 4pm
  7. Need more info? Read our detailed guide.

Eco-Ware makes the news!

Spork Program

Sporks ImageSporks 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 $.05 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!

Freestyle Beverage Dispensers

Touch screen fountain beverage dispensers called Freestyle machines, were introduced to campus in Fall 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. Pick up your Freestyle bottle at The Marketplace, Marche or Redstone Market today!

Bye-Bye Bottled Water

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 The Office of Sustainability

Ending the sale of bottled water makes the news!

Composting & Recycling

Food ScrapsIn collaboration with the  team 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 10 miles 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.

Recycling With the help of UVM Wast 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.

Erica Spiegel, UVM Solid Waste & Recycling Manager, is a member of our Dining Services Advisory Committee and provides insight and suggestions to the group and our department. She was instrumental to the creation of initiatives like Eco-Ware and helps us continue to raise the bar when it comes to sustainable waste management in dining.

Learn more about composting and recycling on campus through the UVM Waste Management website.

Weigh The Waste

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 the patrons and look for trends to help interpret the data. For example, during one of the dinners in the 2013 study, chicken wings were being served. The weight of the bones, an inedible food waste, could have contributed to the higher weight.

Food Recovery Network

Food Recovery LogoUVM 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, Eco-Ware.

Trayless Dining

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. In collaboration with Eco-Reps and a Nutrition & Food Science class, we piloted a trayless dining week at Cook Commons in March 2008. The results showed a 42% reduction of food waste, which prompted us to go 100% trayless! All of our resident dining locations converted to trayless in 2008.


Smart FuelOur 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. 

Reusable Mug Program

One Less CupWe support the use of reusable mugs on-campus. Customers who use reusable mugs only pay $1.19 for any size refill on-campus for coffee and fountain beverage options as part of the One Less Cup discount campaign. Reusable mugs are available for purchase in all of our retail dining locations.

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