Sustainability Core Values and Practices
Michigan Dining recognizes the social and environmental responsibility that comes along with feeding thousands of students each day. As a Leader & Best in university dining services, MDining’s work goes beyond preparing and serving delicious meals. Michigan Dining seeks to ensure that every ingredient purchased, menu designed, meal prepared, dish consumed, and pound of waste discarded are guided by the pillars of Sustainability, Community building, Student Engagement, Collaboration, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
Sustainability touches every aspect of MDining’s responsibilities and actions. MDining defines sustainable actions and practices as ones that first, can be maintained over time, and second, are able to meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. To ensure sustainability across MDining’s reach, the following sustainability core values dictate MDining’s ingredient and supply procurement, food preparation and serving, and food and other waste management.
- Michigan Dining was awarded silver for Know Where to Throw and Gold for Procurement Practices in the National Association of College and University Food Service 2022 awards
- All MDining facilities were certified for platinum in sustainability in 2015
We’re always looking for new and better ways to offer fresh local foods while also supporting sustainable dining practices. The summary below provides a quick snapshot. To learn more about sustainability at Michigan, check out Planet Blue.
Local & Sustainable Foods
More than 30 Michigan farmers and suppliers, including the UM Campus Farm, provide MDining with fruits, vegetables, honey and more. As of 2020, Michigan Dining (including dining halls, retail locations, and Michigan Catering) purchased 19.6% of its food from local or sustainable sources, nearing the University’s 20% goal targeted for 2025. Additionally, 88% of the food used by Michigan Dining was grown or processed in the State of Michigan!
Every Monday our dining halls offer a more sustainable menu that focuses on plant-based proteins, poultry, and fish, and away from red meat. This shift has a huge impact on our carbon footprint, and we’ve seen the carbon footprint of our menus drop by as much as 60% on Mondays compared to other days of the week.
Our very short Michigan growing season is a challenge to us when it comes to local produce, but we use as much as we can in season. Michigan Dining works with LaGrasso, Lesser Farms, J&T Todosciuk Farms, and the UM Campus Farm to serve you fresh, local produce as much as possible.
Additionally, there are weekly M Farmers Market produce stands in selected locations across campus from May through the summer. For details visit the M Healthy website.
Michigan Dairy – All the milk, yogurt and soft-serve ice cream served in the dining halls comes from Prairie Farms, a dairy cooperative made up of local Michigan dairy farms and contains no genetically engineered hormones. Every glass, scoop or cone helps us support Michigan farm families!
Sustainable Seafood – Michigan Dining is the first Big Ten university to gain Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Chain of Custody certification. MSC is a global, non-profit organization that promotes sustainable fisheries and responsible fishing practices worldwide. Look for the MSC logo when choosing entrees in the dining halls.
Organic Fair Trade Coffee – Every drop of coffee served in our dining halls and JavaBlu cafes is organic fair trade and made from beans roasted less than 15 miles from Ann Arbor by M-36. Stop at your favorite Michigan Dining café and try one of our single origin farmer direct coffees and help us help small family farmers.
Local Organic Tea – We carry Light of Day Organic Teas, grown just outside Traverse City on the company’s certified Demeter Biodynamic farm, in all of our dining halls and cafés.
Nothing goes to waste in the MDining kitchens. Every scrap of pre-consumer waste (carrot tops, onion skins, potato peelings, etc) is sent to the Ann Arbor Compost Center operated by WeCare Organics where it’s turned into compost, mulch, and topsoil. All dining halls also compost post-consumer waste.
In retail locations, compost bins are available for customers to responsibly dispose of cups, containers, and other Michigan Dining packaging (which is almost entirely compostable).
The student-run Food Recovery Network (FRN) has partnered with Michigan Dining to collect surplus perishable food that would otherwise go to waste and donate it to people in need. To date, FRN has recovered nearly 35,110 pounds of food. Connect with FRN to get involved.
At the end of each term, MDining donates food we cannot use to Food Gatherers, a food rescue and food bank program serving Washtenaw County.
We’ve eliminated trays in every dining hall. Trayless dining helps you choose your meals more carefully which means less waste.
Just Ask is just that: ask and you shall receive. Every dish in our dining halls and cafés is customizable and our staff are happy to make adjustments. Don’t want a side? Just Ask! Want extra sauce? Just Ask. Customize your dish so you get what you want and save what you won’t eat for another Wolverine.
Small plates or “tapas” portions in our dining halls let you try a little of everything without having to toss a lot of food in the landfill. If you know you love it, ask for a larger portion. Or come back for more. Made-to-order foods such as omelets, stir-fries, sandwiches and more, let you choose exactly what you want so nothing goes to waste.
Michigan Dining can help coordinate zero-waste catered events to divert waste from the landfill and promote food waste composting, recycling and the use of compostable materials. Michigan Dining also offers low carbon catering menus so guests can choose a menu with a smaller footprint.
Cooking oil is picked up and recycled into other usable products including biodiesel fuel and animal feed.
Michigan Dining is the first department on the Ann Arbor campus to earn Platinum Workplace Certification, the highest level attainable. The certification program is administered by the University of Michigan Office of Campus Sustainability.
All newly constructed and recently renovated dining halls were built using energy-saving appliances and heating/cooling systems, recycled finishes and furniture. For example, did you know the orange chairs at South Quad were made from recycled Coca-Cola bottles and the high top tables were made from reclaimed bowling alleys?
What You Can Do
Become a Planet Blue Ambassador!
Are you interested in learning about all parts of sustainability on campus? Then join the network of thousands of Wolverines who are Planet Blue Ambassadors and complete the Planet Blue Ambassador sustainability training!
Plant Based Menuing!
Eating more plant- based food is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and you can find many delicious plant-based dishes throughout our dining halls and retail locations. Carbon Neutrality is a campus sustainability goal and Michigan Dining has worked with various constituents around campus to identify the carbon value of our menu items, increase plant-based foods and plant-based proteins into our menu. Check out Sustainable Mondays to see how you can live into the Carbon reduction work on campus. Food Savvy Fridays, a student led blog features ideas on how you can eat healthy while contributing to sustainable initiatives on our campus.
Kick the Plastic Bottle Habit.
Use the water refill stations around campus to fill your Planet Blue water bottle. There are more than 300 refill stations across campus. Michigan Dining also offers reusable coffee mugs at our retail locations, so pick one up at a café or market near you!
Eat More Local Foods.
Look for foods that are from local sources. Signage in Michigan Dining halls (and many cafés & markets) will help you make these decisions.
Make sure that cups, cans, and food containers find their way to the recycle bin. Here are some tips to recycling at Michigan.
Make sure that compostable packaging and food waste goes in the compost bin, and any questionable waste goes in the landfill bin. Cross-contamination can taint compost bins very easily! Here are some tips for composting at Michigan.
Reduce Your Food Waste.
Customize your dining hall meals, and if you’d like some more food, Just Ask! Take what you’ll eat and eat what you take.
Look for the “Know Where To Throw” information throughout campus to help you sort waste into the appropriate container. The campus waste reduction goal is to reduce waste sent to landfills by 40% by 2025.
Join a sustainability student organization or get involved however you can. Even small actions can make a big difference! Michigan Dining works with Planet Blue Student Leaders, the U-M Sustainable Food Program, the U-M Campus Farm, and many more student organizations.