written by Laura Guerrero-Almeida
Every April 22, countries around the world observe Earth Day. Scientists, leaders, activists and communities come together to discuss the environmental crisis and how we can combat it. This year's theme is Restore our Earth™. Binghamton University Dining Services (BUDS) joins the conversation by highlighting some of the ways we are decreasing our ecological footprint and doing our part to save the environment.
Consuming less meat by following a plant-based diet can be healthy for your body and the environment. This diet focuses on consuming most nutrients from whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. While not the main component of a plant-based diet, it can also include animal products.
Students can always find plant-based dishes at every resident dining station. Our entrée line offerings vary daily – dishes include tofu stir-fry, lentil shepherd's pie, butternut squash with lentils and much more. Items like tofu scramble, Beyond Burger® patties and black bean burgers are offered at our grill stations every day. You can always identify these on our menu boards or the Bite app with the orange V (Vegetarian) or the green VG (Vegan) icon.
Gifts from the Garden at CIW Dining Hall is another excellent place to find nutritious and plant-forward dishes. This all-vegan station follows a weekly rotating menu, featuring sizzling salads, tacos, grain bowls, sweet potato toast and hot pots.
"No matter what type of eating style you choose, adding plants is a great way to boost vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals," said Alexa Schmidt, BUDS' RD, CDN.
Sourcing ingredients and products locally is a great way to reduce our ecological impact. It minimizes the need for transport and refrigeration and reduces the energy needed to keep food fresh for extended periods of time.
Some of our locally sourced products may be a huge staple in your diet! We get bagels and rolls from Best Bagels in Town, a local, family-owned bagel shop serving the Broome County area; various in-season produce from Mento Produce, a company established in Syracuse, NY; dairy products sourced throughout New York Upstate farms and NY-based Chobani® yogurt!
Besides its health and environmental benefits, fresh food is also flavorful. We believe it is essential to making delicious meals.
Recovering Food & Composting
Reducing food waste can help reduce greenhouse emissions — a significant contributor to global warming. At BUDS, we do not waste surplus prepared food. Instead, we recover it and distribute it to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW®) and the Binghamton University Food Pantry. CHOW® distributes recovered food to the Broome community, while the campus Food Pantry provides it to students. In prior semesters, we’ve recovered over 30,000 pounds of food.
BUDS collects leftovers and food scraps for composting, the process of turning food waste into nutrient-rich soil. It is also an environmental-benefiting alternative to reduce food waste from entering landfills.
We first gather leftovers in large yellow bins and a farm in Pennsylvania collects it for composting. It is then distributed to different farms and gardens in the area. Some of it even ends up at the Binghamton University ACRES Garden!
Reusable Container System
In order to reduce waste even further, we implemented the OZZI system in Spring 2020. In the first few weeks, thousands of 100% recyclable and BPA-free 02GO©️ containers were distributed to students. OZZI allowed students to use these containers for their food. After each use, they could return their containers to an OZZI machine in exchange for a token, good for one new 02GO©️ container.
Student use of the OZZI system prevented thousands of plastic to-go containers from being used. In the middle of the semester, we removed the system to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We hope to bring OZZI back to campus soon!
BUDS is dedicated to reducing our ecological footprint. To protect the health of the campus community, our operations have made short-term changes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As restrictions lift, we are eager to reimplement many of our sustainability initiatives as allowed by the CDC, State and University health guidelines. You can view the many sustainability initiatives we have implemented here