Mason Dining works with numerous stakeholders to minimize the environmental and social impacts of our operations through sustainability education, support for local agriculture, and a commitment to sourcing and serving healthy, sustainably-grown foods.
Your Mason Dining team works hard towards these goals and relies on student engagement and enthusiasm to drive sustainability initiatives on your campus. We encourage you to connect with your Mason Dining Sustainability team to answer any questions and get involved with innovative efforts on campus.
SUSTAINABLE FOODS AND SOURCES
- Veganism has exploded in popularity nationwide, and Mason Dining is working to update and add more vegan options to nourish and accommodate its community. The dining hall menus rotate daily, so meals are versatile. Our team aims to make it easy and delicious to reduce dietary intake of animal products for customers who are concerned about the negative effects of the meat and dairy industries. Through feedback from customer surveys and engaging with students in the GMU Vegan Society, we gain inspiration and ideation for improving our plant-based offerings around campus. In partnership with the Humane Society’s Food Forward program, we run a plant-based cooking/menu training for our chefs and managers to keep on top of current trends toward veganism and vegetarianism.
- Linked is a vegan report made by Wen, a fellow vegan Patriot. Here you will find tips and personal recommendations about eating vegan on campus. We are always open to feedback and improve menus for its student.
- Wen’s vegan report
- Sodexo currently sources shell eggs from cage-free operations and its pork from producers who do not use gestation crates. Furthermore, they have pledged to source only cage free shell and liquid eggs worldwide by 2025. In the US, as of May 2020, 80% of shell eggs, 83% of liquid eggs, and 57% of processed eggs used by Sodexo are cage free. Moving forward, Sodexo will continue to seek and support cage-free alternatives with its suppliers for other egg products, as well as for other species (rabbits, sows...). In 2017, Sodexo eliminated the use of veal crates from its supply chain. The company has outlined a phased approach to sourcing poultry, beef and veal from suppliers who foster improved animal well-being. Five of our most high-volume pork products – in the bacon, pork butt and pork loin categories transitioned to open sow housing in 2018 – which allows the sow to roam more freely after the pregnancy is confirmed.
- Fair Trade Tomatoes – Sodexo is a partner of the Fair Food Program and has committed to purchase tomatoes only from growers with ethical labor standards. At Mason, we source tomatoes from Florida growers who abide by the Fair Food Code of Conduct – one of the most comprehensive, verifiable and sustainable social responsibility programs in US agriculture. Click here for information on the history behind this movement.
- Fair Trade Coffee – Aspretto is Sodexo’s ethical and sustainable global coffee brand that answers the market’s call for a sustainable, “green” product. It is fair-trade purchased, Fair Trade USA certified, and a partner of the Rainforest Alliance. Through years-long arrangements with companies in coffee-producing communities, we support the values of Fair Price and just working conditions. At the same time, we give back to the communities – For every pound of coffee and tea sold a financial contribution is donated to non-profit organizations that sponsor and support programs to combat hunger and malnutrition, helping those at risk in the communities where we operate. Aspretto coffee is served at Ike's Dining Hall, Southside Dining Hall and The Globe Dining Hall.
- Mason Dining is proud to serve 100% sustainably sourced seafood in our dining halls, certified by the Aquaculture Certification Council, which enforces standards for social, environmental, and food safety at seafood farming facilities throughout the world, and the Marine Stewardship Council, which focuses on maintaining healthy fish stocks and reducing ecosystem impacts of fisheries for wild-caught fish.
- Keany Produce – Through our contract with Keany Produce Distributor we are able to source from dozens of local farms. We consider local to be within a 250-mile radius, and continually support farms such as Crown Orchards and Bubba’s Sweet Nectar in VA, Hess Farms and Davis Mushroom in PA, and Shlagel Farm in MD.
- In-House Herbs – Southside and Ike’s both grow a share of their own herbs! Mason Dining implemented Urban Cultivator growing systems in each unit, equipped with lighting, watering, and automated monitoring of Ph balance for the plants. Herbs grow year-round in the cultivators where customers can observe dining staff seeding, harvesting, and serving these flavorful microgreens. Not only do the cultivators help us reduce food miles, but they also add unique flavors to the resident dining menus.
- President’s Park Greenhouse – Ike’s is proud to sponsor the Presidents Park Greenhouse, operated by the Office of Sustainability. Mason Dining sources all lettuce, herbs, and microgreens from the greenhouse for Ike’s salad bar and menu. Tours and volunteer opportunities are available in the greenhouse – see where your food comes from and help grow some!
- Zeponic – Zeponic Farms, located in Woodbridge, VA, is a family-owned and operated “Freight Farm,” a hydroponic growing operation that supplies Southside with ~300 heads of fresh lettuce each week. Through a unique business model, the farm employs students from the Mason LIFE program, providing meaningful work for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Sodexo at Mason Dining is proud to support this important work by purchasing everything Zeponic Farms grows. Find their fresh butter leaf and romaine lettuce at the Southside salad bar and grill station!
- Students – Students have always been at the forefront of social movements, and fighting for a better food system is no exception. Like students at colleges and universities nationwide, Mason students work with Student Culinary Council (SCC) to access feedback and implement changes to better-fit students' needs and wants. We are actively working to re-activate our chapter with the Food Recovery Network with dedicated students and the support of Mason Dining.
- In 2019 the World Wildlife Fund and Knorr identified 50 foods, known as Future 50 Foods, that have a lower environmental impact, as well as being nutritious. In 2022, Mason Dining turned their existing salad bars at their Southside and Ike’s dining halls into Future 50 Food Stations that offer a rotating, wide range of food options. Students can build their own dishes, or select a featured dish, such as couscous salad or Hungarian goulash, created by the chefs using the Future 50 Foods. Keep your eye open for featured Future 50 Food recipes, enjoy our salad bar and get creative by integrating Future 50 Foods into your diet.
- Compost - Our resident dining halls have been composting food waste since the 2018 Spring semester. George Mason University is proudly partnered with Veteran Compost, we began a composting program at Southside dining hall in the 2018 Spring semester. Our food waste is picked up by Veteran Compost, a local company that collects food waste from Southside, Ike's and the Globe and turns it into organic soil right here in Fairfax, VA. Mason Dining's food waste is helping farmers grow food!
- BioFuel - We recycle all kitchen oil waste (over 7,000 gallons annually). The oil is taken and used to create steam energy at a power plant, which helps reduce fossil fuel consumption.
- Our culinary team utilizes the Leanpath program, which weighs, categorizes, and tracks all food waste leaving our kitchens. From here chefs can see better meal plans to utilize ingredients and note what to order less of, saving time and money. This program assists in diverting and sorting waste by communicating the environmental impacts and tracks progress toward sustainability goals.
In our resident and retail dining locations, we offer ECO Product, BPI-certified, compostable cups, lids, utensils, plates and bowls whenever possible. These products, when disposed of into compost bins, are taken to an industrial compost and biodegrade.
- Trayless/Straw-less - In the 2019 Spring semester, we launched a #SkiptheStraw campaign to reduce the use of straws and single-use plastics on campus. We have replaced most lids with straw-less alternatives and have placed straws behind the counter to be given by request only. Additionally, we sell stainless steel straw kits in our convenience stores, and we give out stainless steel straw kits at various campus events!
- Portion Control - The plates in our resident dining halls are smaller in size and come in a variety of shapes. This limits portion sizes in the all-you-care-to-eat environment, where customers are able to return for another helping if desired. Switching to these plates alone reduced our overall food waste by 15%.
- The Starbucks Northern Neck composting pilot offers the first industrial composting resource available for students, faculty, and staff use. Brought into fruition with collaboration between Facilities Management, University Sustainability, the Patriot Green Fund (PGF), and Operations & Business Services and its vendors, this pilot complements existing pre-consumer composting in residential dining halls, as well as coffee grounds composting. The Starbucks Northern Neck composting pilot will allow Facilities Management and University Sustainability to test different zero waste strategies to improve Mason’s waste diversion rate, supporting data-driven recommendations for implementing both zero waste design standards and composting at more campus sites. Read more on University Sustainability's website here...
EVENTS AND ENGAGEMENT
- We have been teaming up with University Sustainability and Student Government to quantify the amount of post-consumer compost, trash, and recycling generated in our dining halls. The initiative takes place in each resident dining hall over the course of three days during lunch. At the end of each night, the waste is weighed and divided by the number of patrons who entered the dining hall during the designated collection time to estimate ounces of waste per person.
How to fight climate change with what you eat!
"The wonderful thing about food is you get three votes a day. Every one of them has the potential to change the world." —Michael Pollan
By opting for a sustainable diet, you are combatting injustices against people, animals, and most importantly - our planet 1. Sustainability is an intersectional standard that invites humans to have compassion for land, water, animals, and each other. By doing so, we can achieve an eco-friendly diet that promotes diversity, human health, environmental and economic well-being, all while combating food insecurity.
While there are many components to reaching a sustainable diet, Mason Dining has decided to narrow in on Carbon Emissions through the food we serve. In 2021, it was reported that 34% of all carbon emissions on earth came from food supply 2 Everyone and everything inevitably leaves behind a carbon footprint. However, some foods wear bigger shoes than others, leaving behind massive footprints that diminish the chances for future food to grow. With awareness and smart food choices, we can reduce our carbon foot print and nourish our immune systems.
To learn more about your personal carbon footprint take an EPA assessment HERE.
Criteria for carbon indicators
Here at Mason Dining, we decided only to look solely at carbon emissions through the food that we prepare and serve.
GREEN – Equal an estimated 25% of the daily carbon footprint target
YELLOW - Equal an estimated 26- 50% of the daily carbon footprint target
RED - Equals an estimated 50-100% of the daily carbon footprint target
When assigning carbon indicators to food, there are several different methodologies. Though we are focusing on carbon emissions, water use, land use, and emissions from methane, nitrogen, and other factors also can contribute to a food’s indicator.
My Emissions - Estimate the carbon footprint of your food
How do different foods have different impacts on the environment?
1/3 of all green house gasses in our atmosphere is contributed to food systems 3. Each step of production; including growing, harvesting, transporting, distributing, preparing, consuming, and disposing of foods, releases varying amounts of greenhouse gases 4. These gasses then absorb and trap heat in our atmosphere, resulting in global warming. By measuring the intensity of greenhouse gas emitted along the supply chain, we can better see the impact that specific foods have on the environment. The graph below, from My World Data, visualizes what foods contribute at various points in the supply chain.
- The on-campus coffee retailers offer a “buy 9 get one free” incentive to customers who bring a reusable mug. Bring your own mug on your next visit to Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Chick-fil-A, Einstein Bagels, and convenience stores on campus and ask for a punch card to start building up rewards!
- Guide to running Food Recovery Network