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Aerial view of UW Farm gardens.

Housing & Food Services established our first comprehensive Sustainability Policy in July 2000, laying the groundwork to incorporate the three pillars of sustainability—environmental, economic, and social considerations—into our decision-making processes.

Since then Housing & Food Services has become a national leader among higher education housing and dining operations in sustainability.

Sustainable housing

We play a vital role in the UW’s consistent recognition as one of the most sustainable campuses in the country. As an organization, HFS endeavors to consider every decision from a perspective of sustainability.

Solar energy

HFS and UW Solar, a student-led group, installed solar panels on top of Mercer Court Apartments to generate 33,000 kwh of electricity to supplement power needs at the 1,000 resident complex. In subsequent years, HFS and UW Solar installed similarly sized solar panel arrays on top of Alder, Elm and Maple halls.

Rain water collection

The first large-scale rainwater-capture laundry system in the U.S., using a 125,000 gallon underground cistern, is built under Mercer Court Apartments, providing all of the water for Mercer’s washing machines.

Sustainability in the residence halls

Watch this video then visit our YouTube channel to learn more about how HFS maintains our dedication to sustainability.

Sustainable dining

UW Dining was recognized nationally as a top performer in the 2017 Sustainable Campus Index report for its performance in waste diversion and sustainable dining practices. We continue to dedicate resources to maintaining sustainability.

OZZI reusable container program

From compostable to reusable!

HFS and the UW are leaders in sustainability, including recycling and composting. UW Dining offers compostable take-out containers, cups and flatware designed to bypass the garbage stream. Unfortunately, too many compostable materials end up in the garbage.

To reduce the use of compostable take-out containers, UW Dining is partnering with OZZI, a company specializing in reusable container systems.

The OZZI reusable container program is now available in Local Point and Center Table. All residents will receive a free OZZI token at the beginning of the academic year.

How it works:

  • Present your token* to the cashier when you place your food order.
  • Your take-out meal is served in a purple 6 x 9” reusable container.**
  • Enjoy your food, then rinse out the container.
  • Return your container to one of the OZZI Drop N’ Go collection machines located in Local Point or Center Table at your next meal.
  • Receive a new token to use for your next take-out meal from the collection machine.

*If your token is lost you will need to pay an addition $5.00 to start the program again.

**Containers are microwave safe, dishwasher safe, NSF certified, BPA free and FDA approved.

Anyone taking food in compostable packaging will have to pay an additional 50 cents – excluding certain items unable to be transported in an OZZI container (i.e., beverages and soups).

Compostable take-out ware

Every to go container from any location on campus is compostable, including the cutlery.

  • In 2014 HFS and Starbucks created compostable hot beverage cups. A first for Starbucks, and for HFS “Proudly Serving Starbucks” locations. The cup is now used worldwide.
  • HFS partnered with Cell-O-Core and Pactiv to create compostable green straws for Starbucks, another first for Starbucks that also went worldwide.

UW Farm to Table

Several HFS dining locations have partnered with UW Farm, integrating crops grown on campus into their recipes, and fostering a stronger connection between the farm and the table.

UW Dining Chefs work closely with UW Farm to determine the weekly produce needs of each dining location by placing orders. By aligning their purchases with seasonal availability, the dining locations contribute to the farm's sustainability while ensuring a consistent supply of fresh ingredients. The UW Farm then delivers the produce to the locations, tracking purchases through invoices, which further strengthens the accountability and transparency of the collaboration.

The input of UW Dining Chefs in the planning process extends beyond ordering. They collaborate with the UW Farm to identify the produce needs for quarterly recipes at each location. This valuable feedback helps the farm determine the appropriate types and quantities of produce to plant, taking into account the varieties that thrive in the local climate.

The Communications and Marketing team is developing signage that will be displayed at each location, indicating which ingredients on the salad bar or available for retail sales were grown at the UW Farm. This signage aims to educate and engage patrons by showcasing the farm-to-table connection within the dining spaces.

“We use the Husky Grind Café at Mercer to pair our coffee experience with a correlating elevated food experience, utilizing and highlighting UW Farm produce in our salads, and ingredients like pumpkin which we use to make a pumpkin puree that goes into our Autumn Latte” – Ryan Jongeward, Assistant Manager Husky Grind Coffee/Education Program.

For those interested in cooking their own meals, District Market offers a diverse produce section featuring many ingredients sourced from UW Farm.

Produce and Fair Trade

  • Produce is supplied by Charlie’s Produce, a local employee-owned company. Charlie’s has been buying local produce for 25 years. They have 15 conventional growers in the Puyallup/Kent/Mt. Vernon area they draw upon for local produce. They also work with 24 growers in Eastern Washington, plus numerous packing sheds.
  • We use Wilcox Family Farms all-natural, cage-free eggs. Wilcox Family Farms has been awarded Salmon Safe certification, recognizing farming practices that protect the health of our rivers and streams.
  • Medosweet is a local family-owned dairy distributor that provides us with milk from Smith Brother Farms. The fresh milk arrives at our loading docks within three days of the milking. Medosweet products are all natural, from cows not treated with rBST.

Waste reduction

  • UW Dining participates in WasteWise, a program administered by the EPA that helps organizations monitor and reduce waste.

Social responsibility

  • HFS employs over 1,000 UW students every year.
  • We continually review our ordering process to keep waste to a minimum. The nominal surplus food is donated to Food Lifeline, a local nonprofit food assistance program.
  • Sustainable food purchasing puts $5 million back into our local economy each year.
  • HFS sponsors SEED, a part of RCSA, that works with residents and HFS to bring awareness to sustainable issues that impact our campus.