Sustainability Commitments

UChicago Dining is committed to protecting and improving the environment. We work to reduce our environmental footprint while developing programs that promote sustainability through environmentally friendly products and practices, sustainable food and local purchasing options, energy and water conservation efforts, and waste management. Below is an update on all of our environmental stewardship initiatives.

Sustainable Food Procurement

  • We are committed to fostering new connections from field to fork and changing the culture of food by nourishing our guests with menus that emphasize fresh whole foods that are raised, grown, harvested, and produced locally or sustainably wherever possible. We ensure that our preparation techniques respect and maintain quality and freshness.
  • We align with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, which ensures responsible purchasing to help preserve oceans and promote the use of sustainable seafood.
  • The bread in the residential dining halls is purchased from Alpha Baking Company, a Chicago business.
  • 100 percent of our milk is purchased from Bareman’s Dairy in Holland, Michigan. This dairy farm is located only 147 miles from the University of Chicago.
  • We work closely with Cristina Foods, our produce distributor, to purchase locally grown produce whenever they are in season. Every year, UChicago Dining hosts an Apple Festival in the farm and highlights the local farms that produce was purchased from.
  • Our cheese is purchased from Belgioioso Cheese, located in Wisconsin.
  • In fall 2011, we switched all of our eggs to cage-free. These are purchased from Abbotsford Farms and are American Humane Certified.
  • Fair trade coffee is offered throughout our cafes, as well as in our residential dining halls.
  • We support local MWBE (Minority and Women in Business Enterprises), including Cristina, Tasteful Life, Little Miss Muffin, Saffron, Inc., Asian Provisions, and Noodles, Etc.

Waste Management

  • We view the responsible management of waste as a requirement to sustain and restore our natural resources and the communities that we serve. We are committed to minimizing our environmental footprint by fostering a culture that reduces, reuses, and recycles waste. To support a closed-loop waste management process, our innovative practices include following the EPA Food Waste Hierarchy to make the most of excess food. The food waste recovery hierarchy comprises the following activities, with disposal as the last, and least preferred, option:
  • PRIMA, our food production system helps our managers to accurately plan a menu and provide the kitchen staff with exact portion sizes and additional guidelines for reducing waste. It also tracks overproduction and then automatically adjusts menu forecasting the next time that item and menu mix are produced.
  • In an effort to reduce food waste, UChicago Dining has implemented a “tray inconvenience” program in the residential dining halls. Instead of the traditional layout where the trays, plates, and silverware are located at the front of the dining hall, the trays have been moved towards the back of the dining hall so that one has to look for the trays in order to use them. We also place educational signs up about the sustainability benefits of going trayless.
  • In spring 2011, UChicago Dining piloted a food donation program by partnering with Food Donation Connection. In fall 2011, all three residential dining halls began donating leftover food to the Pacific Garden Mission, the oldest continuously-operating rescue mission in the country, located in Chicago.
  • UChicago Dining diverts 100 percent of used fryer oil waste from the landfill through Kaluzny Brothers, Inc. In turn, the fryer oil is converted into various biofuels. In 2010, we diverted over 18,000 pounds of fryer oil waste.
  • Compost and organic food waste is currently collected in the residential dining halls. On average, approximately 8,000 pounds are composted every week. We also offer student groups the opportunity to drop off excess food waste from their on-campus events for compost.

Responsible Procurement

  • UChicago Dining considers the environmental and social implications of our purchasing practices. We seek to purchase and use environmentally preferable products and services, and recognize suppliers who reduce the environmental impact of their production and distribution systems or services.
  • We only purchase SCA one-napkin-at-a-time dispensers and Earth Plus napkins that are made from 100 percent post-consumer material at all UChicago Dining locations.
  • We offer reusable coffee mug discounts at all cafes and sell reusable water bottles at all retail locations.
  • All paper purchased in offices is made from recycled materials.
  • Forks, spoons, knives, plates, cups, and to-go serviceware in UChicago Dining retail locations are compostable.
  • We converted all chemicals to Daily Green Cleaning brand at all UChicago Dining locations in spring 2010.

Advantages of Going Trayless


  • Conserves energy by eliminating the need to heat water for tray-washing
  • Reduces dependence on fossil fuels
  • Saves one-third to one-half of a gallon of water per tray
  • Reduces chemicals, detergents and drying agents used to wash trays
  • Decreases discharge into landfills, incinerators and wastewater treatment facilities
  • Lessens the ecological footprint

Social Awareness

  • Supports education and awareness of environmental issues
  • Reinforces institutions’ sustainability initiatives
  • Encourages students to participate in a “green” initiative that has both a personal and community impact
  • Reinforces sustainability awareness on a daily basis


  • Saves on cost of water and energy
  • Saves on cost of detergents and rinsing/drying agents
  • Eliminates cost of trays
  • Reduces food waste removal costs