Recently at the Michigan League, Barbara Hagan and Nicole Berg from the Office of Campus Sustainability presented on several effective ways to improve the sustainability of office kitchens and resources to help sustainability champions around campus implement these efforts. Below is a recap of the topics and resources covered for those who were unable to attend.
Choose sustainable foods. When purchasing anything from coffee to catered lunches, you have the opportunity to choose options that are local, plant-based, seasonal, and certified for their sustainability. To learn more about these considerations, you can check out the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Purchasing Guidelines.
Buy in bulk. Items for kitchens such as sugar, creamer, coffee, and tea are frequently available in both single-serve and bulk packaging. By choosing bulk, your office can reduce packaging waste and the number of deliveries you receive.
Use the Sustainable Kitchen Supplies tool. The Office of Campus Sustainability has put together an online tool to help you purchase sustainable kitchen supplies from AVI, Gordon Food Service, and Office Depot. You can search for the type of item you are looking for, and the tool will let you know the vendors, prices, and sustainable attributes of different choices. The tool even gives items a sustainability score that you can sort by.
Purchase reusables or compostables. The dishware you eat on can be just as wasteful as the packaging your food arrives in. If your office has a kitchen space and sink, purchase reusable plates, bowls, cups, mugs, and silverware to reduce your impact. If your office does not have a kitchen area, switching to compostable dishware and flatware is the next best thing, as long as your office has composting. There are now online tools to help you compare reusable ware and compostables as well.
Composting & Recycling
Start composting. As much as 35 percent of our existing landfill waste at U-M could be composted. More than 200 staff kitchens have already started composting, and this may be an opportunity for your kitchen as well. Currently this program is only available to spaces with U-M waste management services. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to determine whether your space is eligible for participation.
Host Zero Waste Events. If your kitchen isn’t ready or eligible for full-time composting, host a Zero Waste Event to raise awareness and reduce waste. Any on-campus event with food can receive FREE compostable ware and collection bins for events regardless of whether the space has regular compost service. As soon as you begin planning your event contact email@example.com.
Participate in new pilot recycling programs. Beyond our standardized single-stream recycling available across campus, your office can now participate in several pilot programs to recycle items including: bottle caps, writing instruments, and oral care products. Learn more about how to get started with any of these recycling initiatives.
Post outreach materials around your office. You can help promote sustainable behavior at U-M by posting outreach materials in your work space. The Office of Campus Sustainability has a variety of free posters for easy download and printing as well as other stickers and magnets that you can request here.
Participate in the Sustainable Workplace Certification program. Sustainability in the office goes beyond just the kitchen. Check out the Sustainable Workplace Certification Program and fill out their online inventory to see how your office’s practices measure up. You will receive a certificate to celebrate your achievements to date, as well as specific feedback on how to reach the next level.
Host a lunch and learn. If you and your colleagues are interested in learning more about sustainability on campus, you can request a free Planet Blue Ambassador training. The training can easily be done over a lunch period and covers U-M’s sustainability goals as well as what individuals can do to at home, school, and work to live more sustainably. This training can also be done independently online at the link above.
Thank you to the Planet Blue Ambassadors who came out for the workshop and made the session so engaging with your questions and suggestions. If you were unable to attend or if you have questions about these or other Planet Blue resources, we encourage you to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.