University of Washington Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability

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Type: Policy

Status: Ongoing

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Housing and Food Services is committed to environmental stewardship, which is everyone's responsibility. HFS works closely in collaboration with our students, UW departments, vendors, suppliers and other partners to reduce our environmental impact. By working as a team, we can take action locally. HFS has implemented many programs, all of which rely on student participation for continued success.

Examples of HFS stewardship programs include:

We want to make it as easy for you to recycle as it is has previously been to toss an item in a garbage can.

There are plenty of ways to recycle and conserve in the Residence Halls. Here's how:

Recycling on the Floors
All of the HFS Residence Halls and apartments invite you to recycle paper, bottles, cans, certain plastics, cardboard and other recyclables in commingled containers located on each residential floor. This is accomplished in participation with the UW Recycling Services and our local hauler, Waste Management.

Pilot Compost Program
Four floors of the Residence Halls on North Campus will be collecting compostable items as part of a compost pilot program to determine whether compost collection on all floors is feasible. The project is being run in conjunction with SEED (Students Expressing Environmental Dedication), which will manage and analyze this project.

The UW has participated in the last two Recyclemania national student recycling competitions.

Summer Scram
Since 2004, HFS and UW Recycling have created the Summer Scram recycling event for unwanted items like used clothing, furniture, small appliances and books. Collection points are set up at all of the Residence Halls and UW apartments. All items are redistributed to the community.

Last year, 13,363 pounds of used clothing and 4,485 pounds of household goods were donated to Northwest Center, 1250 pounds of books were donated to Better World Books/Mona's Children, 17 pounds of cell phones were donated to Collective Good, and 110 pounds of toiletries were donated to Real Change.

E-media Recycling
Collection containers for E-media recycling are located in each residence hall. E-media recyclable items include used batteries, CDs, DVDs, tapes, cassettes, videos, cell phones, ink jet printer cartridges, and small electronic devices. The materials are collected by UW Environmental Health and Safety for appropriate recycling.

We're all in this together. Learn what you can do to take more responsibility for the impact you have on the environment. Each one of us can make a positive difference.

Energy and water are essential for life. Because the over-consumption of these vital resources is negatively affecting our surroundings, the Department of Housing and Food Services (HFS) is examining ways in which we can positively impact the environment. Listed below are practices that we have implemented.

Energy Conservation
HFS, with the assistance of Seattle City Light, has completed many energy conservation initiatives including energy efficient lighting changes to our residence halls.

CFL Exchange
HFS, Students Expressing Environmental Dedication (SEED) and Seattle City Light have partnered to create a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) exchange program for task lighting. Students may exchange an incandescent bulb for a free CFL. Last year under this program, HFS replaced approximately 5,000 incandescent lights with CFLs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use three-fourths less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last up to ten times longer. HFS is seeking additional ways to save energy.

Water Conservation
Since 2003, HFS has reduced water consumption by 6,000,000 gallons per year, despite the fact that occupancy has steadily increased. This 30,000,000 gallon overall reduction in water consumption translates to a 55% reduction per resident over the past five years. Results were acheived by changing food service refrigeration equipment from water-cooled to air-cooled, installing low-flush toilets and installing waterless urinals.

In partnership with WEB Intelligent Laundry Systems, HFS has provided new high-efficiency front loading Energy Star Maytag washing machines in all of its laundry facilities. These new models use 15-18 gallons per wash and use approximately 30% less energy compared to top-loading machines. The new machines also have a 2.9 cubic foot capacity. Using the UW Ethernet, you can confirm the availability of the washers and dryers in your HFS building at

Green Housekeeping
HFS uses either cleaning agents that are labeled as "green" products, or low toxicity products based on data supplied by the manufacturer. HFS Custodial Services uses central stations for dispensing cleaning agents into reusable spray bottles. This reduces the waste associated with disposable containers.

Furnishings and Carpet
Mattresses are recycled after use in the Residence Halls. Carpet is also recycled when possible. All carpet and adhesives are certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Program. Low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints are also used.

HFS continues to seek furnishings and carpet products that are both sustainable and durable, and alternatives to carpet that are more allergen-free, environmentally friendly and easier to keep clean.

Healthy Dining
Our Food Services staff has been busy developing healthy alternatives for your food choices. Here's what they've been up to.

More and more people have been looking for healthful food served in ways that reduce waste and that are easier on the environment. Below you will see some of the approaches HFS is taking.

Local, Natural, Organic
We partner with local suppliers and purchase local, natural & organic products whenever possible. We also regularly review our purchasing system and meet with our contracted vendors to source new products that can be purchased from local, socially aligned partners.

Currently, the following major product categories are sourced locally:

  • Wilcox Family Farms provides us with milk and yogurt that are free of antibiotics and the artificial growth hormone rBST. Wilcox has been awarded "Salmon Safe" certification, an emerging Northwest eco-label that recognizes farming practices that protect the health of our rivers and streams.
  • Headquartered in Seattle, Darigold, a subsidiary of the Northwest Dairy Association and a farmer-owned co-op, provides us with half pints of milk. Eggs are natural, certified cage-free and produced by Washington farms.
  • Breads and rolls for sandwiches are provided by Seattle bakeries.
  • Bagels and bakery items (such as muffins, scones, cookies and donuts) are produced by Seattle bakeries and are free of trans fat.
  • Produce is supplied by Charlie's Produce, a local, employee-owned company.
  • Organic, shade-grown, Fair Trade Coffee is offered in the convenience stores, Residence Halls and cafés. Seven of our cafés offer 100% Fair Trade Coffee with the addition of Fair Trade Espresso.
  • Guayaki Yerba Mate is served at all 21 cafés and is an organic, Fair Trade Certified product.
  • Blue Mesa supplies the beef for the hamburgers served in all of our dining operations. Their cattle are 100% USDA Certified Natural Black Angus, and are antibiotic and hormone free.
  • French fries are made from Pacific Northwest potatoes and are free of trans fat.
  • "Grab and go" packaged convenience store foods are produced locally, including sushi (Uwajimaya), sandwiches, salads, yogurt parfaits and fresh cut fruit cups (Jackrabbit).
  • Our convenience stores offer a tremendous variety of local favorites, such as Jones Soda, Cougar Mountain Cookies, Bon D'Elie Hummus, and many more products too numerous to list.
  • Our retail food courts feature Pagliacci Pizza, a local retail restaurant chain that exclusively uses local products in season to create their pizzas and that uses compostable packaging exclusively.

Trans Fats
In 2005, we eliminated frying oils containing trans fats. We use canola oil and olive oil in the preparation of our recipes.

Composting is actually an old and proven technique to take organic materials and use natural means to create a nutrient-rich component for the soil.

Did you know many of the cups, straws, and food containers you are now using in our dining facilities are biodegradable? When you put these items in compost receptacles, they are combined with kitchen waste (the egg shells from making your omelet) and leftover food. This mixture is taken to Cedar Grove (the largest compost facility in the Northwest) where it is converted to nutrient-rich compost. Over the summer of 2007, we expanded our collection sites and compostable disposables lines for the purpose of offering a complete compostable serviceware package to our customers.

Our credo is to "Strive for Zero Waste" through composting. Working with students, HFS staff takes pride in being involved in a program that is making a real effort to reduce the amount of waste going to our regional landfills.

Recycling and Conservation

Food Services is working actively with our purchasers and suppliers to reduce the amount of packaging in our products and containers, and to convert to compostable packaging when possible, to further reduce the amount of waste going to our landfills.

Recycling Containers
UW Recycle has a well-structured and successful campus-wide program for the identification and ease of collection of recyclables. With color-coded containers to store recycling (blue), composting (brown) and regular trash (gray), our customers can easily identify items and correctly recycle them.

Food Services has an agreement to have all of our used cooking oil picked up by a local producer of biodiesel fuel. For the first six months of 2007, we had 930 gallons of used oil converted to clean-burning biodiesel, which is sold to customers in the Puget Sound region.

Bring Your Own Mug
Anyone who brings their own mug to a café gets drip coffee for $1.00. Espresso drinks are 10 cents off.

Herb Garden
Food Services has a patio herb and vegetable garden located on the roof of McMahon Hall, one of our Residence Halls. Our garden is lovingly maintained by University grounds keepers. Our chefs use the garden to grow herbs and produce that we use to supplement what we purchase from Charlie’s Produce, a local, employee-owned company that supplies us with fruits and vegetables.

Environmentally Sustainable Cleaning
Ecolab, provider of all food service cleaning products and detergents, has introduced on our campus their new line of environmentally-friendly products, called Ecologic. Food Services promptly introduced Ecologic at two of our largest food service operations and will have all of our operations converted by September 2007.

Get Involved
See this checklist of actions that individual residents can take and information about how to join Students Expressing Environmental Dedication (SEED).