UC Berkeley News


UC Dining Hall goes green
Innovative Crossroads facility is lauded for sustainability. That means, in part, that leftovers help feed the homeless (and the Berkeley Worms)

| 26 August 2004

The Crossroads dining center on Southside has won certification as a Green Business from Alameda County for its contributions to environmental sustainability. (Christine Schaff photo)
Crossroads, the largest of Berkeley’s four student dining commons, recently became the first campus facility certified as a Bay Area Green Business by Alameda County officials.

Certification means that Crossroads, which opened in January 2003, meets specific criteria aimed at conserving energy and water, reducing waste, and preventing pollution. And it demonstrates the campus’s continuing efforts to make its dining halls, which serve 8,000 meals a day, more environmentally friendly.

“Crossroads has become a model for other units at Berkeley by incorporating sustainable practices into its operations,” says Mark Freiberg, director of the Office of Environment, Health and Safety. “Its efforts demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement and an awareness of environmental sensitivities that moves beyond regulatory compliance.”

Crossroads has window space to let in natural light, energy-efficient lighting, low-flow water faucets, and tables cleaned with cloth instead of paper. Its water-conservation efforts alone have resulted in saving 180,000 gallons a month — enough to supply 30 homes.

Crossroads also donates excess food to a local homeless shelter and gives food scraps to an on-campus collective, “Berkeley Worms,” that sells the worm castings to local gardeners and others.

A student in nutritional sciences, Esther Situ, was hired to help Crossroads meet certification standards, speeding the process by coordinating efforts between the dining hall and outside agencies such as PG&E and East Bay MUD.

In another new “green” initiative this fall, the four dining halls will offer “to-go” packaging made from sugar cane, which biodegrades quickly. Kim LaPean, Berkeley’s marketing coordinator for residential and student service programs, estimates that the facilities will go through 2,500 to-go containers a day.

In addition, donations of food to the Harrison House homeless shelter will be expanded later this month to include all four dining halls. In fact, says LaPean, there’s likely to be so much more food once all four halls are participating that it will have to be distributed to additional shelters or charitable organizations. LaPean notes that a goal has been set of having all four dining halls certified “green” by fall 2006.

Crossroads’ program with Berkeley Worms will also be expanded. Founded more than a decade ago, Berkeley Worms composts about 200 tons of food waste every year, including about 70 tons from the campus dining halls. Currently, Crossroads gives pre-consumer food waste such as eggshells and coffee grounds to the worm collective.

But this fall it will start donating post-consumer food — that half-eaten hamburger or the crusts off a sandwich — to the program as well. This will mean changing the way the dining halls are set up and educating student customers to scrape off extra food into a special bin instead of just tossing it into the garbage, LaPean says.

The Alameda County Green Business Program is a government-business partnership that includes the East Bay Small Business Development Center, Alameda County Waste Management Authority, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the city of Fremont, Alameda County Water District, and PG&E.

For information about the Green Business Program, visit www.abag.ca.gov/bayarea/enviro/gbus.