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sustainNU - Office of Sustainability


Sustainability is core to Northwestern Dining’s mission and to its customers. From the farm to the table, Dining has identified opportunities to serve healthy and sustainable meals that support small and mid-sized farms in the Midwest and contribute to Northwestern’s goals of energy and water conservation and waste reduction.

Sustainable Foods

food binsNorthwestern Dining is committed to serving sustainable and locally grown foods. In partnership with suppliers and local farms, sustainable purchases are increasing. Meatless options are widely available, and NU has been recognized by Peta2 as a “Most Vegetarian Friendly College.” 

  • The Northwestern Dining Farm, in Osseo, Wisconsin, is a source of local and organic produce for campus dining services. Wild Roots, NU's on-campus garden, also provides items for campus dining.
  • Fair trade organic coffee is used in all resident dining and retail locations on campus.
  • Milk served in resident dining locations is rBGH & BGH free and purchased locally from Muller-Pinehurst Dairy in Rockford, Illinois.
  • Vegetarian and vegan selections are available at every meal and Meatless Mondays feature a wider variety of options.
  • All shelled eggs used are humane certified cage-free.
  • Frontera Fresco, a premier eatery on campus, strives to obtain as many products as possible from local sources, primarily from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Recycling & Waste Reduction

students eatingWaste reduction and diversion are an important part of Dining’s sustainability efforts. Participation in campus recycling efforts, waste reduction and reuse are incorporated into daily operations. These efforts make Northwestern Dining and its customers more sustainable.

  • Food waste is collected for composting in all six resident dining locations and the Norris University Center. Learn more about this initiative.
  • Edible leftovers are donated to local to residents in need via Campus Kitchens.
  • Cooking oil is recycled in partnership with Chicago Biofuels and the Loyola University Biodiesel Lab. Vegetable oil from dining halls is refined to create biodiesel which is used to fuel campus shuttles. Leftover oil is also used to make eco-friendly soap, called biosoap. It is currently sold in all C-stores.
  • Filtered water stations are available in all resident dining locations providing students with easy refill options for reusable water bottles.
  • All retail outlets offer a discount for patrons who use a reusable bottle or mug. Many items used, including napkins, coffee cups, and coffee sleeves, are made from post-consumer recycled content.
  • Styrofoam plates and coffee cups have been eliminated from retail dining outlets.

Energy and Water Conservation

The energy and water used in food preparation is significant and has a direct impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Conscious efforts are made to select efficient equipment and implement conservation based practices.

  • By going trayless at in all resident dining halls, one quarter gallon of water is saved for each tray that would have been washed. There are great savings in the energy to heat that water as well.
  • A highly-efficient Ecolab Apex washing system is utilized, reducing chemical and water usage by more than 10 percent per load.
  • In partnership with Facilities Management and Nicor Gas, all kitchens are audited to identify energy conservation opportunities.

Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow Plan

sodexo logoThe Better Tomorrow Plan (BTP) is Sodexo's global promise for sustainability and outlines efforts to minimize environmental and social impact. The BTP provides a ten-year vision to focus Sodex's efforts, including developing measurable sustainability targets and publicly reporting on our progress.

For a full list of sustainable practices, check out Northwestern Dining.

Strategic Initiatives

How to Help

  • Only take as much food as you think you will eat.
  • Incorporate more vegetarian dishes in your diet.
  • Buy food at your local farmers' market.