In RHS, we strive to ensure MSU’s long-term sustainability through innovative and balanced strategies that support stewardship, fiscal responsibility and partnership.
Culinary Services has been recognized nationally for sustainability efforts, including two gold awards from the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) in 2020 to honor food procurement practices and outreach and education.
Throughout the academic year, the MSU Food Stores procurement team focuses on implementing Triple Bottom Line initiatives that reduce costs, limit waste and decrease energy consumption. In addition to promoting a high-quality supply chain, the department implements strategies to further improve outreach and education, helping students and team members advance their passion for social responsibility.
Additionally, Culinary Services continues to emphasize local sourcing, water conservation and energy efficiencies, and zero waste principles of reuse, reduction and recycling in facilities.
RHS contributes to MSU’s overall sustainability progress. The university’s effort to continuously improve in sustainability was recognized by achieving a Gold STARS rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). MSU is now one of three Gold-rated institutions in Michigan and was recognized in the top 20 Green Schools by the Princeton Review in 2019. RHS efforts play a pivotal role in the university’s progress, particularly in the areas of student engagement, food and dining operations, and sustainable procurement.
This page is designed to share high-level information about sustainability efforts being made in the area of Culinary Services. For more information about MSU Sustainability and RHS Sustainability, please refer to the following resources:
- Culinary Services is committed to sourcing food as locally as possible, working to strengthen our supply chain and focus on Triple Bottom Line initiatives (people, planet and profit). Our team was recognized by the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) in 2020, receiving a gold sustainability award for procurement practices.
- MSU considers its own production capabilities on campus before looking off campus. We have our own on-campus bakery, MSU Bakers, and have established strong partnerships with the MSU Student Organic Farm, Bailey GREENhouse and Urban Farm, MSU Dairy Store and MSU Meat Lab to reduce costs, limit waste and decrease energy consumption.
- If we're unable to source hyper-locally from on campus, we look within the state and surrounding states. We have a wide variety of local and regional vendor partners to assist with sourcing as local as possible.
- The Sustainable Food Procurement Guide provides detailed information about our food sourcing, sustainability efforts, and best practices and considerations in specific purchasing categories. Follow this link to access the interactive guide.
Academic Integration and Collaboration
RHS contributes to student success at MSU through integration with academic programs. Connecting with academic curriculum provides students with hands-on experience and living-learning laboratories to enhance their engagement. Several examples are highlighted here.
- Human Nutrition and Food (HNF) Courses
We partner with the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition to help educate Spartans and provide hands-on experience outside the classroom. HNF students volunteer and assist with Clean Plates at State food waste assessments in the dining halls. Additionally, students in the foodservice management course plan and execute an event, including budgeting, preparing and serving foods, designing a layout, theme development and marketing.
- MSU Student Organic Farm (SOF)
We support the 15-acre, certified organic, year-round teaching and production farm, serving campus-grown produce in dining halls. Over the years the farm has flourished and developed into a place where many different groups are able to engage with growing food and creating learning opportunities through farming. For more information on SOF, see their annual report online.
- Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment (RISE)
RISE is an interdisciplinary living-learning program focused on sustainability and environmental stewardship. This academic team has unique partnerships with several RHS units, including Culinary Services. Together with RHS collaborators, students are studying how to reduce food waste, decrease energy and water consumption, and send less solid waste to the landfill. For more information, see the RISE annual report online.
Outreach and Engagement
RHS plays a key role in providing engagement opportunities for students that enhance their learning experience outside of the classroom. These co-curricular opportunities and learning experiences are recognized through the newly developed “My Spartan Story” program, administered by the Registrar’s Office.
- Eco Rep Program
RHS recently expanded an existing student Eco Rep Program to further engage with Spartans campus wide. Interested students living on campus apply and are interviewed, with the goal of having reps throughout the 27 undergraduate residence halls. Once they are onboarded, reps coordinate and help with sustainability events, educate others, implement practices in their building, and coordinate and monitor building recycling. For more information, email email@example.com.
- Registered Student Organizations
Throughout fall and spring semesters, RHS partners with student groups to support their efforts and events. One example is MSU’s student chapter of Slow Food, which hosts a variety of engagement opportunities, including cooking demonstrations, farm volunteering and skill workshops. The group focuses on reconnecting the community with the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food.
Team Member Engagement
Eco Ambassador Program
The Eco Ambassador Program for Culinary Services was developed in 2019. Selected ambassadors in the dining units serve as champions of sustainability in their area, identifying opportunities to reduce waste and costs as well as educate their teams. They receive a toolkit with a wealth of resources to support efforts as well as a sticker to showcase their role.
RHS developed a summer internship program to provide opportunities to full-time frontline team members, allowing them to gain experience in other areas of the division. Current internships focus on sustainability, project management, team supervision and more. Sustainability interns develop best practices, energy and material conservation, assessments, food waste programs, marketing and communications, and training.
Full-time and student team members in Culinary Services undergo mandatory training dedicated to sustainability, covering conservation, packaging, food waste and more. On a broader level, RHS full-time team members who are new to their role go through Celebrate State, a mandatory three-day training. The program was revamped in 2019 and now includes a dedicated section to for social responsibility and sustainability.
Operations and Environmental Efficiencies
Food Waste Reduction
- Clean Plates at State
Clean Plates at State helps put environmental sustainability into perspective for campus diners, encouraging them to take simple steps to avoid wasting food. The main goal is to determine the amount of post-consumer food waste at MSU dining halls and analyze its implications for Culinary Services. Through partnerships with IT Services and academic courses, RHS enhances the student experience by expanding their opportunity to learn and increase their enrichment of community, economic and sustainable living. Food waste assessments in fall semester at each dining hall.
- Fall 2019 Clean Plates at State data shows an improvement from 3.16 oz. of food waste per person down to 2.96 oz. Results from an internal study suggest if food waste were cut from 3.16 oz. to 2.5 oz., the division would save about $380,000 per semester.
- Closing the Food Loop
Culinary Services employs many strategies to close the food loop and reduce food waste on campus. Our many programs help us track and lower various types of food waste on campus, diverting materials to a variety of locations on and off campus. This includes the MSU Student Organic Farm for composting, the south campus Anaerobic Digester to convert food and farm waste into energy used on campus, and Hammond Farms of mid-Michigan. Brody Square also uses a pulper to process post-consumer food waste, which employs a grey water system that conserves water while reducing the food waste volume.
- Tray-less Dining
MSU has three tray-less dining halls: The Vista at Shaw, Heritage Commons at Landon and The Edge at Akers. Volunteer tray-less dining is encouraged throughout residential dining to conserve water and reduce the amount of food taken, which ultimately reduces food waste. As RHS remodels and renovates residential dining halls, tray-less designs are considered along with other sustainable attributes.
Reuse and Recycling Efforts
Pack Up, Pitch In
Since 1996, MSU students and the City of East Lansing participate in Pack Up, Pitch In. Taking place during residence hall move-in and move-out, the program recycles unwanted items, including non-perishable food, to benefit local charities and those in need.
Retail locations around campus do not offer plastic bags to cut down on plastic use and encourage guests to choose a reusable bag. Additionally, straw-less lids are utilized in retail areas like MSU Concessions to cut down on straw use. The State Room Restaurant uses paper straws and sustainable wooden stir sticks as well.
Several residence halls and 1855 Place apartments on campus have community kitchens available to students and staff with nearby recycling. Additionally, the 1855 Place building that includes community, office, residential and retail space has extensive recycling available for paper, metal, glass and plastic as well as a composting bin.
Water bottle filling stations are located throughout campus to encourage the community to fill a reusable bottle as opposed to purchasing bottled water. Reusable cups and water bottles replace single-use plastics and use less energy, creating less pollution and, ultimately, fewer greenhouse gases. A map available online from MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) allows Spartans to find a water bottle filling station: https://apps.gis.msu.edu/water-bottle-filling-station
If you have any questions regarding our efforts, please contact RHS Sustainability at firstname.lastname@example.org.