Since they came to campus this summer, Augsburg’s new dining service provider has made a few changes. Walls were removed, countertops were replaced, and spaces were renamed. But the changes have been more than cosmetic. A’viands is working closely with the College to reduce its environmental footprint through a composting program, the “Trayless Tuesday” initiative, and the replacement of dishware with environmentally friendly products.
In September, Augsburg Dining began composting in the Commons cafeteria, the main dining hall for residents and faculty and staff. All leftover food and paper products from diners is placed in special composting containers rather than into the garbage receptacle.
Last spring, a group of students and facilities manager Tom Ruffaner conducted an audit of garbage from Augsburg’s dining facilities. They determined that approximately 35 percent of the items thrown in the garbage could be composted. Jay Cross, A’viands manager, said this composting project was started as the result of the audit and through Ruffaner’s effort.
According to Cross, the effort has resulted in a significant reduction of waste. “Now we have only one bag of garbage per day,” compared to 12 to 15 6-gallon bags that were collected daily prior to the implementation of the composting program.
The compost material is sent to a Hennepin County facility where Cross says it is “cooked up” and distributed to local farmers and community gardens, including Augsburg’s garden. A’viands plans to place composting collection bins at other dining locations in October.
Following a trend at other college dining facilities, Augsburg has implemented “Trayless Tuesday,” a program to limit the amount of water and detergent used for washing trays and to reduce food waste. Rather than piling multiple plates, bowls, and cups onto a tray, diners take what they can carry to the table on Trayless Tuesdays and return for more food if and when they want it.
In addition to saving water–Cross said up to 3 gallons of water is required to wash just one tray–the initiative has resulted in a 60 percent reduction of food waste. This means the dishwashing machine is cleaned less often and can actually be shut down earlier in the day.
Cross said students have been very receptive to Trayless Tuesdays, but “non-student” diners have complained. Despite this, Cross said A’viands plans to add Trayless Thursdays later in the semester.
A’viands has also replaced the cups, plates, plastic ware, napkins, straws, and to-go containers used at Coopers Coffee Shop, Nabo, and Murphy’s with biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable “Greenware.” When “going green” was more trendy than practical, Cross said environmentally friendly products were too expensive for many foodservice providers to use. “Now you can good quality items for a decent price,” he said, which makes the effort easier on their bottom line.
Cross said A’viands will continue to work with Augsburg, especially with the Environmental Stewardship Committee and other student groups, to reduce and repurpose waste. “It’s amazing to see how much waste can be used elsewhere,” he said.