September: Dining Green

Welcome to the second month of our year of celebrating 10 Years of Living Green!

Molly Breen, one of the 10 Year Celebration Live Green! team members, here. I am so excited to feature all things Dining Green over the past 10 years, as well as all sorts of events this month that highlight adding some green to your dining, in this blog post. September is absolutely OUR Month to Dine Green!

Our Ten Year Anniversary celebrates all the remarkable sustainability initiatives and the significant changes Iowa State University has made over the past decade. Each month is dedicated to a different theme, event, and historic change on campus. There will be opportunities for you to discover education, engagement, and empowerment opportunities and experiences with every month of the Ten Year celebration.

Celebrate at the Dining Green Foods & Features Event

We are officially back into the swing of the school year. For me, this means fall and all the wonderful fall produce is here to enjoy. It is such a great time of year to dine at Iowa State, as there are so many locally grown foods offered in a number of fun and unique recipes in our dining centers and cafes. In addition, through our local Ames farmers markets, there are so many opportunities to purchase local foods and enjoy them through your own cooking. One thing that helps me get back into cooking is to check out the Ames Farmers Market and the Iowa State Local Food Festival. As Iowa State students, faculty and staff, we have so many opportunities to DINE GREEN and we are excited to highlight them, as well as a number of student organizations whose missions support a greener dining experience.  We hope you can join us!

What: Green Dining Foods and Features Event

Where: East Marston Lawn

When: Monday, September 10, 11am-1pm

Who: ISU students, faculty and staff

How: Drop by, enjoy a cookie (made from scratch by ISU Dining) or apple (grown at the Horticulture Research Station), learn about all the many ways ISU Dining has added some green to their operations and your dining experience over the past decade, meet some of the amazing ISU student organizations committed to nutrition, food and food security and pick up some unique sustainability giveaways to green your everyday dining experience.

**Bring a non-perishable food item with you (to donate to The SHOP, ISU student food pantry) and be entered into a special green dining prize drawing. Faculty and staff can also earn Adventure2 credit for bringing a donation.

AND… there’s more!!  All day on September 10 at all campus cafes, bring your own mug and receive a 50 cent discount!!  

Other Green Dining Events in September

In addition to joining us at the Green Dining Foods & Features Event, there are three additional opportunities to celebrate green dining during September.

Local Food Festival, An Adventure in Eating – September 19, 9:30am-1:30pm, Central Campus. The annual event, in its fourth year, features educational displays, food samples, recipes using local foods developed by Iowa State dining chefs, and locally grown and produced products for sale by area vendors and ISU clubs. Scheduled to allow a delicious adventure between classes and over the lunch hour. Free reusable and “pouchable” bags, while they last!

Ames Farmers Markets – through September (and also October), Ames offers two Farmers Markets with a diversity of locally grown and made foods. The Ames Downtown Farmers Market, taking place on Main Street, is open Saturdays in September from 8:30am – 12:30pm and in October from 9am – 12:30pm. The Ames North Grand Farmers Market is open Wednesdays from 3-6pm and Saturdays 8am-12:30pm, through the end of October. Something for every palate!

AND… one more!!  Look for us on September 4, outside of Curtiss Hall from 12-2pm, we will be tabling and can answer questions about ALL of these great green dining opportunities.  AND… we will also be sharing information about ALL of the 10 Years of Living Green events, offering a sweet treat as well as some Live Green! celebration giveaways!!  

Although not in September… a GREAT October Dining Green Celebration!! 

Iowa County Fare – October 22-25 (Lunch and Dinner time), Friley Windows Residential Dining Center, featuring local foods like you have never experienced or tasted them before! Open to students, faculty, staff and community members. Entry fee at the door or can be included in a meal plan. Enter your name into a drawing at the Foods & Features event on September 10, for free tickets to this, oh so tasty, event!


Our Moves to a Greener Dining Future

Green dining has most certainly been a focus for many years prior to the start of the Live Green! Initiative in 2008; however, some impressive strides in the past ten years are definitely worth celebrating!! For example, in 2007 ISU Dining kicked off a local foods initiative, Farm to ISU and in the ten years since thousands of pounds of locally grown food have been a part of the daily dining experience for thousands of Cyclones. With each passing year ISU Dining focuses on increasing its purchases of local, organic, and alternatively produced agricultural products from Iowa farmers, currently partnering with sixteen Iowa producers. In 2017, ISU Dining secured a unique partnership with the Horticulture Research Station, and with assistance from the Good Earth Student Farm, to utilize station plots, not being utilized for research, for growing produce for dining operations. This resulted in nearly 5,000 pounds of green peppers being provided for ISU diners. This year 8,000 pounds of yellow onions are anticipated for delivery and enjoyment.

Cyclones Dining Forward

In addition to green dining through food, ISU Dining is committed to ensuring we all leave a lighter “plateprint” in dining, as well. With all dining operations, food waste is one of the areas of consideration in efficiency and savings. ISU Dining has approached this in a multi-faceted approach.

ISU went trayless in all residential dining centers in 2010. By removing trays, an average reduction in food thrown away of .30 pounds per visit has been achieved. This savings passes to all students, faculty and staff – since reduced food waste equates to reduced cost of handling food waste and purchasing the food that has been wasted.

Additionally, through partnerships with a local community free meal program and food pantry, Food at First, and commitment by an ISU student organization, the Food Recovery Network, to collect all unsold pre-made and packaged food from our campus cafes, as well as campus events, nearly 12,000 pounds of food, as of spring 2018, has gone to those in need instead of into the dumpster. A great cause, positively impacting Ames families and the community. Now that is appetizing!

For all the food waste that does not have a donation option from ISU dining centers and also ISU dining and catering kitchens from meal preparation, composting is an option. Starting in 2009, ISU Dining connected with the University Compost Facility to compost all pre and post-consumer residential dining facility food waste, as well as the pre-consumer catering food waste (and post-consumer by request). At the compost facility, food waste is mixed with yard waste from campus operations, biological research waste from our greenhouses and animal manure and bedding from our animal science facilities to create a finished product used on campus and at the Horticulture Research Station to help grow more food – quite an impressive full-circle system.

In addition, through recycling food packaging and other operational supplies, including uniforms, waste from operations is able to further minimized and offered a beneficial use beyond the dumpster. As well as saving through waste, ISU Dining is also very cognizant of saving through energy use and demand. Researching the most energy efficient equipment, utilizing high efficiency lighting features and simply turning off and unplugging items, when feasible, while not in use are all standard considerations in the day-to-day operations of our campus dining facilities.

Reusing Makes Cents

There is another unique way to dine green at ISU, reducing your dining packaging, like water bottles and mugs. Bringing your own mug and reusing it, makes CENTS at Iowa State. By bringing your own mug/cup, you’ll receive a $0.35 discount on all drinks at all campus cafes and c-stores. Through this commitment, an average of 35,000 fewer disposable cups are kept out of the waste stream annually. Now, that’s sweet! This cents-ible idea is also something that many coffee shops throughout the Ames community also have incorporated into the customer experience. Next time you grab coffee, on or off-campus, be sure to ask about discounts for using reusable mugs. If you do not have your mug, but are “drinking in”, request a non-disposable mug, instead of a disposable one. And don’t forget about the 50 cent discount, all day across campus, for bringing your own mug!!  

Eat Greener with Recreation Services

ISU Dining is not the only department committed to dining green at ISU. Recreation Services partners with Iowa State Dietetics to provide students, faculty, and staff with green dine options, ideas and tools through Smart Eats. Through this resource, you can sit down with a knowledgeable dietetics student and learn about dining green, for all of dining done on-campus as well as off of campus. Take advantage of this tailor made Iowa State program, as well as other unique tools and opportunities such as Culinary Boot Camps and blogs, to enhance your nutritional knowledge and develop healthier habits.


Know your Food

A new publication, soon to be released, the Foodie Magazine is designed for all foodies! More than 100 pages long and offering SO many delicious recipes and cooking tips, as well as stories and good-to-know info about sustainability, wellness & well-being, and nutrition, it is a must have for everyone who eats and loves to eat. The magazine’s goal… to bring together a love of food with nutrition and well-being, while also being mindful of our “plateprint”. Not only does the Foodie Magazine highlight food, it features student groups, directors, and various departments whose mission, vision and work is committed to well-being through food wellness/well-being. To receive the publication when it is completed, send an email to, subject line “Send me the Foodie Magazine!”.

Clubs Greening Your Plate

Iowa State University has a diversity of student organizations cooking up sustainability initiatives. As we do every month of our Ten Years of Living Green! celebration year, we are excited to highlight two clubs, among SO many, that share a vision of a food secure, healthy food for all, sustainable future.

The SHOP (Students Helping Our Peers), is a student-run, on-campus food pantry for students, faculty and staff at Iowa State University. Celebrating their eighth year, January 2019, The SHOP began as a group of students in the Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) transfer learning community and has grown to include students from a diversity of majors. Their mission – to increase food security on campus and offer non-perishable food and other personal hygiene items to all ISU students and faculty/staff in need.

Through donations from individuals, campus organizations, local churches, and more – they have even been listed as a donation option in lieu of gifts for weddings and other celebratory occasions. With this annual outpouring, that grows every year, a wide variety of free, non-perishable food and, most recently, personal care items are available. And their reach is impressive and also humbling. During an average month, The SHOP will serve in access of 100 students. Their outstanding efforts, through volunteerism, were recognized in them being awarded the Story County Youth Volunteer Award in 2011.

Food Recovery Network is an organization that values every morsel of food. Their mission is to reduce food waste and help end hunger in the Ames community through collecting excess food to offer it to those in need. Collectively, The Food Recovery Network is part of a national organization with 230 chapters in college campuses all over the country. Their primary objective as a college chapter – to act as a link between food providers and food pantries to help reduce food waste and feed those in need.

Colin Welk, the president of Food Recovery Network, notes their unique connection to sustainability and their next decade vision for Iowa State, “Our organization works to promote both environmental and social sustainability by recovering food from dining locations around campus and delivering it to food pantries in Ames. This supports environmental sustainability by cutting down on food that would otherwise be wasted. Composting and recycling do provide many benefits, but finding other ways to use food before it is composted is more energy efficient and generates less greenhouse gases and waste. Our volunteerism also contributes to the social sustainability of Iowa State by strengthening partnerships between Iowa State and the Ames community and addressing social injustice and inequality. Food security is a huge issue in Iowa, especially in Story County where 15% of people (~14,000 residents) are food insecure. Our work helps provide a continuous supply of calories and healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, to those in need.”

“Iowa State University is committed to sustainability goals and is a perfect place to organize sustainability-minded individuals to serve local communities. We would like to see a zero-waste Iowa State campus in 10 years and a big reduction in the prevalence of hunger within Ames, Story County, and Iowa communities. Our organization hopes we will continue to grow and play a role in helping Iowa State tackle those challenges and meet its sustainability goals.”

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Monthly Challenge – Dining Green

Thanks for learning about Dining Green at Iowa State University. We hope you get out and stay active! Here’s a challenge to keep you greening your dining experience!!

For the month of September, students, faculty, and staff are “green challenged” to bring and use your reusable mug and water bottle toward a goal of consuming no disposable cups this month. You will save money, conserve resources and reduce our disposable cup waste stream! And, you can help us reduce disposable cup use by even more than 35,000 cups per year. That is enough to cover the Football field at Jack Trice almost 25 times, let’s make it 26 times, Cyclones!

What’s Next?

October is our month dedicated to Learning Green. Join us for a sustainable lecture series, featuring speakers focused on environmental, economic and social sustainability and look for our posters throughout campus buildings highlighting the many opportunities to green your class schedule and portfolio through over 900 sustainability courses offered to students throughout all of our colleges. Remember to join our Ten Years of Living Green Facebook group for more information on events, giveaways, and all things live green!!


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