Sustainable dining to reduce Cal Poly’s foodprint

Sustainability is an integral part of Cal Poly services, providing students with an environmentally friendly campus today and for tomorrow. As one of the largest commercial services on campus, Campus Dining strives to lessen our environmental impact with programs, products and services that reduce Cal Poly’s foodprint. Our sustainability efforts are focused around five key areas:

  1. Food Sustainability
  2. Waste Stream Management
  3. Water and Energy Conservation
  4. Green Buildings
  5. Green Transportation

Food Sustainability

Energy Efficiency & Sustainability Best Practice Award. Sustainable Food Systems Food Sustainability. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Campus Dining. Cal Poly students, faculty and staff expect Campus Dining’s food to be good. What “good” means, however, goes beyond taste and nutrition. It means that it is sustainable. One way we ensure the food we serve is sustainable is evaluating food sourcing. We are always looking to expand our list of food providers to meet the California State University’s sustainability policy, which states “campuses shall strive to increase their sustainable food purchases to 20 percent of total food budget by 2020.” In 2017, Campus Dining was honored with a Best Practice Award in Sustainable Food Systems from the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference for our work in this area.

Buying Local

A key strategy in providing sustainable food is buying local. It keeps money in the local economy, preserves family farms, reduces oil-dependent transportation costs, protects our local landscapes and ensures fresh and healthy food stays available and affordable for all. Campus Dining is proud to support numerous local farms and artisans, including over 100 different local, organic, and sustainable products throughout campus, including Cal Poly produced products. We also offer numerous USDA Certified Organic products in our campus markets.

Making Educated Food Choices

Campus Dining offers sustainable food options. To help students make educated sustainable food choices, Campus Dining has a Wellness Office staffed with a registered dietitian. This knowledgeable professional helps students with wellness questions and has developed a campus-wide outreach program that promotes healthful, balanced eating habits. The wellness program also includes education about the environmental benefits of eating local.

Waste Stream Management


Did you know the United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 30-40 percent of food supply goes to waste? This does not account for the other waste involved in food production like packaging. Campus Dining takes this issue very seriously and has taken major strides over the years to reduce our waste and divert it from the landfill.


Since 1990, recycling has been a major part of Campus Dining’s waste stream diversion program. There are recycling stations next to every trash can in our dining venues, and all of our kitchens have food scrap and recycling trash containers as a part of our back of house diversion program. We annually recycle 193,000 pounds of cardboard.

Zero Waste

Campus Dining is very excited to participate in Cal Poly University’s Zero Waste program. The goal of the program is to significantly divert the amount of campus trash that ends up in a landfill. Cal Poly already diverts 72 percent of its trash. The California State University Chancellor’s Office has ordered an additional reduction of the remaining 28 percent by the year 2020.


In addition to recycling, we compost. Every year, 230 tons of food scraps and coffee grounds are locally composted into nutrient-rich soil. We expect to divert even more waste in the future with our new Zero Waste stations that are part of the Zero Waste program. These waste receptacles are placed in our dining venues for students to sort their trash for composting, recycling and landfill.

Re-use and more

Recycling and composting are a big part of Campus Dining’s waste diversion program. We also reduce waste in other ways. For example, we eliminated plastic bags and Styrofoam completely and have begun to offer compostable cups and containers. At 19 Metro, our all-you-care-to-eat facility, we offer Eco-To-Go containers to freshman on the dining plan for them to re-use. We purchase paper products that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to help reduce the environmental impact. In the last five years, we have worked directly with suppliers to turn 27 thousand gallons of recovered cooking oil into bio-diesel, soap or a supplement for animal feed.

Water and Energy Conservation

It takes a lot of energy to serve 20,000 students, faculty and staff everyday. To conserve resources, Campus Dining continually looks for ways to conserve energy and water. We have eliminated trays and have purchased newer more efficient equipment. Together, these two actions have saved 17 million gallons of water in the past five years.


Green Buildings

As we plan to replace many of our major facilities, we are focusing on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards. These new buildings will lead the way in site and materials conservation, water conservation, energy efficiency and conservation, and improved air quality. Nearly 60 million dollars is projected to be invested in erecting these green buildings.

Electric Vancs

Green Transportation

Currently, 32% of Campus Dining’s vehicle fleet runs on electricity. As we add new vehicles, the major criteria are their fuel efficiency. We will also examine alternative modes of transportation, like bicycles for deliveries.

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