BY MERYL PHAIR ’21
The new Dining Commons at Mount Holyoke college has maintained certain sustainability initiatives since its opening in January and is looking to expand their efforts going forward.
The Dining Commons were originally designed with a number of ideas for eco-friendly equipment and practices. This includes energy efficiency: the Commons have been built in accordance with LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) Certification Silver standards, which means the building requires less energy and resources to operate than a conventional building.
Other energy-efficient systems include a rain-capture system from the roof that will feed into a rain garden and filter water to be used in campus landscaping, a system to capture oil used in cooking for reuse as biofuel and a food waste dehydrator system to process and dehydrate food waste in less than 24 hours before being composted. The Dining Commons also attempts to decrease waste from non-biodegradable packaging by getting rid of the to-go option, and not serving individually-bottled beverages.
The old Blanchard food area is currently under construction with a cafe, pub and grab-and-go station coming soon. “We don’t have the menu planned at this point. It’s been a busy semester with getting the Dining Commons up and running,” said Rich Perna, director of Dining Services. “We know that local beer and wine will be offered, variety of cappuccino and espresso drinks, smoothies, pub style menu with focus on local and sustainable sourcing.”
“We will start planning the grab-and-go store fairly soon,” Perna explained. “We will be able to offer far more than what is currently offered in Kendade. We know there will be a make-your-own yogurt bar with loads of fresh toppings, soups, sandwiches, salads and much more. We are planning to use compostable take-out containers.”
The Miller Worley Center for the Environment is working closely with Dining Services on their Dining Commons sustainability initiatives. Nancy Apple, director of Environmental Health & Safety and associate director for Sustainability of the Miller Worley Center, along with sustainability intern Shannon Paton ’19, meet with Dining Services staff every other week to discuss the status of sustainability initiatives.
Paton is currently analyzing sustainable purchases using the Real Food Challenge calculator, maintaining the online map of local farms being supported and assisting with research into options for local sources. As a leader in the Food Justice Society, Paton is also working with the Miller Worley Center, Botanic Gardens, Dining Services and Facilities Management to re-institute a student garden this semester.
“The student garden collaboration brings a collaborative approach to campus food sustainability and will increase education and involvement opportunities in sustainable food production,” Apple said. “I am very excited with the progress that has been made under the leadership of the new director of Dining Services, Rich Perna, and am looking forward to continuing to collaborate with Rich as we move forward.”
Apple confirms that Dining Services will be installing a new herb cultivator in the Commons soon, and that students will be able to watch the herbs they will be eating grow.
Recently-hired food systems manager Lilly Mortensen is moving forward rapidly with sourcing more local products, bringing local farmers to campus to showcase their products in the Dining Commons, and providing the community with information on local options.
The student organization Zero Waste will be holding Clean Plate events to encourage students to eliminate food waste. The next one is April 11 from 5:30-7:30 p.m in the Dining Commons.
“We have many other things in the pipeline to increase our local food sourcing and sustainability efforts,” Perna said. “Hopefully everyone is starting to see all of the changes. Our focus continues to be serving great food and provide the best customer service to our community.”