Queen’s Hospitality Services is undertaking new initiatives to make dining on campus more sustainable, including hiring a sustainability chef.
“Overall role is to engage people and give and collect info,” Davide Del Brocco, Queen’s newly-hired sustainability chef, said in an interview with The Journal.He started actively in the role in December, after transitioning into the position throughout the fall.
“I go through the dining halls every day and make changes and collect data,” he said. “I speak to the customers about what they like and didn’t like about their meal, and then work with the chefs to see where food and sustainability can come together.”
In an interview, Del Brocco and Jessica Bertrand, a registered dietitian who’s been involved with sustainability in food services at Queen’s since 2017, highlighted the BYO-ECO Card program, a stamp program that rewards customers for bringing in reusable mugs, cutlery, and containers. Users are charged the price of a small hot beverage and receive a stamp for all coffee and teas purchased in a reusable mug. After 14 stamps, customers get one free coffee or tea.
The program, put in place during Queen’s Sustainability Week in 2018, has been successful. According to Bertrand, it has increased reusable mug usage from five per cent to 12 per cent of consumers.
Another program the two say has found success is the ECO Container Program. Queen’s students can opt into this program with a $5 deposit and receive their soup or chili in a sealable take-out container, for the price of a small. Once the student is finished, they can bring the dirty ECO Container back and trade it for a clean container.
Another way Hospitality Services aims to reduce its environmental footprint is through its practices with uneaten food. Leftover food from all cafeterias and food outlets on campus is donated to Loving Spoonful and to Soul Food, organizations that bring uneaten food to local shelters. Hospitality Services also collaborates with Kingston Food Rescue.
Food scraps and waste are donated to local vegetable, chicken, beef and pork farms to be used as feed. Queen’s sends 50 to 100 pounds of food scraps per week to these farms, which is used as food for pigs, chickens, and cows, as well as compost, according to Del Brocco.
“We donate a lot, and on a daily basis,” Bertrand said. “A lot of the initiatives we’ve been doing for many years.” She told The Journal that from Oct. 22, 2018 to May 29, 2019, about 36,748 kilograms of greenhouse gases were diverted from entering the atmosphere due to Hospitality Services’ practices.
A new program added to the sustainability roster this year is LeanPath Spark, which Del Brocco said has been one of his passions. It weighs and tracks food waste through floor scales and digital signage, giving Hospitality Services data to analyze in three areas: food prep waste, post-consumer food waste, and catering food waste.
“In the dining halls, LeanPath Spark will track post-consumer waste and subsequently educate our consumers on the impact they can have by helping reduce food waste,” according to the Hospitality Services website.
“This has been a team-implemented change,” Del Brocco said. He emphasized how the data collected will affect menu engineering. “We will be able to see what comes back on plates, helping us to be more flexible and change with the demographic and demand.”
Bertrand recognized that there are still gaps in the sustainable practices of Hospitality Services. “We need to improve the education of incoming students from across Canada,” she said. “Recycling and composting practices are different across the country.”
Another area they are looking to improve is making packaging and utensils used in food service outlets such as The Lazy Scholar and Location 21 fully sustainable. “We do what we can with the infrastructure we have, depending on dishwashing and sanitation capability,” Bertrand said. “The campus is very busy and relies on to-go options.”
“We are looking at more compostable options,” Del Brocco said. “We’ve already begun the process by swapping out to fully compostable coffee cups at some locations.” They are also transitioning from plastic bags to paper bags wherever possible.
Bertrand told The Journal that Hospitality Services has recently completed a sustainability framework, which will be published on their website shortly.
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