It’s easy being green—at least in the Great Hall.
The venue, operated by Bon Appetit Management Company, has recently been the focus of several campaigns aimed at improving its sustainability. The Great Hall is celebrating Bon Appetit’s fourth annual Low Carbon Diet Day today by offering a special lunch menu to highlight foods that are produced with low levels of carbon emissions.
Bon Appetit Marketing Manager Sarah McGowan said the event is designed to inform students of ways they can reduce the carbon footprint of the food they eat.
“Is it feasible to totally eliminate beef and cheese every single day?” she said. “No, but we can educate consumers [on] why decreasing consumption of those items could impact the environment in a positive way and hope that they elect to make those choices outside of our operations.”
The meals offered for lunch at the event will follow Bon Appetit’s “Top Five Low Carbon Diet Tips,” which include not wasting food, highlighting seasonal and regional foods and avoiding beef and cheese. Options will include brine-roasted pork and North Carolina rainbow trout.
Although the Great Hall’s menu will go back to normal after the event, McGowan said the event is part of Bon Appetit’s larger commitment to reduce carbon emissions.
“We have company-wide goals to decrease our cafe’s carbon ‘foodprint’ in the highest impact areas—beef and cheese reduction and food waste reduction—by 25 percent in 2012,” she said. “To date, Bon Appetit has reduced beef usage by 33 percent and food waste by nearly 25 percent nationwide.”
The Great Hall is not the only dining venue to launch sustainability initiatives. The Refectory is one of the greenest venues on campus and the Marketplace will also be participating in Low Carbon Diet Day, serving similar emission-reducing meals at lunch.
Junior Ben Soltoff, co-president of Environmental Alliance, said the Great Hall’s commitment to the environment was commendable even before the initiative began.
“Although most students don’t realize it, the Great Hall is one of the most sustainable eateries on campus,” Soltoff said. “It makes a dedicated effort to provide local, seasonal and organic food, often going above and beyond Bon Appetit’s national standards.”
Soltoff added that there is more work to be done, however, such as encouraging students to use the reusable clamshell containers currently available in the Great Hall, a project that the Environmental Alliance was involved in during the project's early stages.
“There is always room for improvement—more food could come from sustainable sources, and waste is a huge problem,” Soltoff said. “It is ridiculous and unacceptable how many students get plastic to-go containers and then stay in the Great Hall for their meal.”
Students are not the only ones who appreciate the Great Hall’s environmental consciousness. Director of Dining Services Jim Wulforst said he approved of the low-carbon initiatives and confirmed the administration’s commitment to sustainability.
“You are what you eat, and people need to understand the ramification of what they’re consuming,” Wulforst said. “Everybody needs to be very conscious of everything they buy as a consumer and everything they eat.”
Students can continue to make low-carbon meal choices after the Low Carbon Diet Day by eating local, seasonal and organic foods and by cutting back on meat, Soltoff said.
“The most important thing students can do is eat less meat, especially red meat,” he added. “While vegetarianism is the ideal environmental choice, simply cutting down on meat consumption can have a large effect.”
Ben Soltoff's quote has been updated to say that the Great Hall makes an effort to go "above and beyond Bon Appetit's national standards." Additionally, this article has been updated to reflect that the Environmental Alliance was involved in the reusable clamshell container project, but not an initiator, as a previous version reflected. The Chronicle regrets the errors.
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