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UC Davis Dining Services is aware and mindful of waste creation. We continuously improve our waste management. Sending all waste to landfills is inefficient by present standards and for the future of both our local and global communities. Today our country is seeing landfills increasingly at capacity, sometimes forced to send waste overseas, and California is no exception to this.

UC Davis Dining Services practices disposal through the best means available to us while also providing education to diners so they can bring these habits home with them, whether it’s off campus or in residence halls.

UC Davis Dining Services looks critically and holistically at the resource and energy usages in our operations. Taking a comprehensive approach, we continue to lead the campus community in reducing landfill-bound waste by composting, recycling and reusing, as well as reducing our water, energy, fuel and natural resource use and overall consumption. We are aligned with the University of California, Davis campus goal of achieving zero-waste by 2020.

Eliminating food waste

UC Davis Dining Services actively works to reduce the amount of food that is not consumed in the dining facilities on campus. There is an inevitable loss in food preparation that occurs (i.e. apple cores, banana peels, egg shells), yet we are diligent and motivated to utilize opportunities to decrease this amount both in and outside of the kitchen (pre- and post-consumer). We are driven to see the food that isn’t utilized in preparation and that is leftover on a diner’s plate to be first reduced and second utilized as a resource rather than lost as a waste.

Food Recovery Hierarchy

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is just one agency that is concerned with food waste, food recovery, and food insecurity. One tool to address these issues is the Food Recover Hierarchy. According to the EPA, the “Food Recovery Hierarchy prioritizes actions organizations can take to prevent and divert wasted food. Each tier of the Food Recovery Hierarchy focuses on different management strategies for your wasted food.

The top levels of the hierarchy are the best ways to prevent and divert wasted food because they create the most benefits for the environment, society and the economy.” (Source:


Actions UC Davis Dining Services is taking that is in line with the Food Recovery Hierarchy

Source reduction

Just Ask

The Just Ask program at UC Davis Dining Services provides guests with an option of customizing a prepared dish by encouraging them to request alterations from our chefs. Signs are posted around the Dining Commons reminding students that they can ask for a dish without sides, in a half portion or without a bun. The Just Ask program empowers students to reduce their waste, while also opening a conversation for them to request their dish in the same manner that they would serve it for themselves at home.



The Try-a-Taste program at UC Davis provides guests in the all-you-care-to-eat campus dining commons an opportunity to sample a plated entrée or soup before taking an entire serving of food. This helps guests in the Dining Commons reduce their food waste. Try-a-Taste led to a 40% food waste reduction when it was started. Diners share that they really enjoy Try-a-Taste. It has shown to lead to greater satisfaction in the dining commons.

Reusable 4oz china ramekins or 2oz ceramic soup spoons are used as sample vessels. Platform cooks prepare a flight of samples that are available next to the fully plated items or crock of soup. A larger ramekin is available at the point of service for students to discard empty sample cups/spoons. Cooks continue to provide fresh samples throughout the meal time, just as they provide fresh plates of the full meal.


"Love Food, Don't Waste" Audits

Each quarter, UC Davis Dining Services holds a waste audit in which a team of UC Davis students and Dining Services' employees work together to collect, sort and weigh dining guests’ meal waste at each of our three dining facilities. As our guests bring their plates to the dish return, they are asked to sort their waste into the following categories: “edible food waste” (like coleslaw or a bread stick left on someone’s plate), “inedible food waste” (like a corn cob or a banana peel), “liquid waste” (any liquids, not including ice) and lastly “napkin waste.”

We work diligently to understand how to reduce the amount of uneaten food that is returned to the dining commons dish return.Give us your feedback by filling out our food waste survey.

Our waste audits revealed that our food waste average decreased by 30% from 2.31 oz/person in Fall 2012 to1.6oz/person in Spring 2015. See below for previous waste audit reports.

Trayless operations

In June 2008 UC Davis Dining Services removed all trays from the all-you-care-to-eat operations on campus. This strategic change was motivated by a responsibility to reduce food waste, energy use, water use, and chemical use – and has been very successful. Data from audits before and after this change show food waste decreased by nearly 30 percent, as well as saving more than 50,000 gallons of water.



Feed hungry people

Food Recovery Network

The Food Recovery Network collects and donates dining commons over-produced food to local community members in need. Currently, food is being donated to Davis Community Meals and Cesar Chavez Plaza. The Food Recovery Network’s Davis chapter was started by Stefanie Scott, a third year environmental science major, in 2012. In collaboration Dining Services chefs, sous chefs, cooks, and others, FRN regularly deploys over 10 volunteers to collect and deliver over produced food. In 2013, UC Davis Dining Services donated about 1262.4lbs of overproduced food to the Food Recovery Network.

Interested in volunteering? Contact the Food Recovery Network at


Feed animals

UC Davis Dining Services currently is not diverting food for animal feeding. In diverting our leftover food for recovery, we are emphasizing providing the edible food to local community members and the inedible food to create valuable products- renewable energy and rich compost.


Industrial uses


Pre-consumer food waste (kitchen scraps) is collected by ASUCD Project Compost at many retail units including the Silo Union and several coffee kiosks around campus. Project Compost, a student led organization, takes this food waste and turns it into nutrient-rich compost at the UC Davis Student Farm.

Food to energy

Pre- and post-consumer food waste (i.e. meat, dairy, eggs, left-over food) and other organic materials (compostable items, paper products, napkins, etc.) is collected by UC Davis Dining Services in all three resident dining rooms, the Gunrock Pub, University Catering, the Silo, Scrubs, the Hub and the Aggie Stadium. Each of our retail locations offers packaging that can be composted or recycled. This organic matter is either sent to the UC Davis Renewable Energy Anaerobic Digester (READ) to be converted into campus electricity or sent to a composting facility in Zamora and turned into nutrient rich compost for local farms and vintners.

READ is an anaerobic digester located on UC Davis campus grounds, reducing the environmental transportation costs. This innovative technology takes material that was not only not utilized but creating a negative impact in landfills and turning it into a value added product: clean energy! To learn more about READ an anaerobic digestion, see the follow information:

CleanWorld Breaks Ground On Innovative Anaerobic Digestion Facility at UC Davis, September 12, 2013

Farm to Fork to Fuel

Anaerobic Digestion and its Applications report, EPA, October 2015


Recycling Cooking Oil

Cooking oil used in dining facilities is collected, retrieved, and recycled. The oil is converted to biodiesel fuel.



The remaining amount of waste that is not recovered, recycled, or converted to energy is going to the landfill. UC Davis Dining Services participates actively with UC Davis campus initiatives, as well as local and regional task forces to continue to reduce the amount of this material. Students are engaged in these efforts and are integral in our strategy for continuous improvement in operations that lead to reduction in waste creation. Dining Services is able to divert over 85% of "waste" from landfills.





EPA Food Waste Recovery Hierarchy, 2015

EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy, 2015




Just Ask, 2015


Try-a-Taste, 2015












Through a collaborative partnership with the UC Davis Waste Reduction & Recycling Program, UC Davis Dining Services takes pride in practicing processes that reduce, reuse, or recycle valuable resources. In line with campus practices, UC Davis Dining Services proudly recycles the following items:

  • Cardboard
  • Paper products
  • Aluminum
  • Tin
  • Plastics #1 and #2 (Plastics #3-7 are currently not recyclable on campus.)
  • Cooking Oil
  • E-waste (batteries, electronics, computers, printer cartridges, etc.)
  • Corks


Zero waste Aggie Stadium

UC Davis launched the nation's very first zero-waste athletic stadium in 2007 at the Aggie Stadium. All food and beverages available at concessions are packaged in compostable or recyclable materials.

UC Davis received national recognition as "Diversion Rate Champion" from the Environmental Protection Agency as part of their WasteWise Game Day Challenge after achieving a 94% diversion rate for the second year in a row during a November 2011 football game.

Water Efficiency

To decrease the unnecessary waste of water, UC Davis Dining Services is continually assessing our water usage, and making actions in the following areas:

  • low flow toilets
  • low-flow nozzles in all dishrooms
  • motion sensor handwashing sinks in kitchen
  • force-thaw (water bath thawing) only in emergencies
  • re-circulating waters troughs in dishroom
  • Mission Linen, our linen service provider, is a Laundry ESP member
  • APEX warewashing system, reduces water use

Energy Efficiency

In order to reduce our global environmental impact, Dining Services has taken steps to decrease energy use.

  • appliances cleaned and turned off when not in use
  • replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs
  • hood vent/smoke sensors to minimize energy impact
  • individual light switches for regularly occupied spaces
  • various light reduction practices

Fuel Efficiency

UC Davis Dining Services is taking steps towards reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and reducing the use of fossil fuels through the following practices.Included are the following:

  • An electric vehicle, or bicycles whenever possible, is used for on-campus deliveries. Bike trailers are available at all times and provided as well.
  • The weight of food waste has been greatly decreased by introducing a pulper, which extracts water from the food waste. This reduction leads to a less impactful trip from the dining operations to READ or Zamora.
  • Participating in the research of an on-campus biofuel project by providing inputs.


Natural Resource Efficiency

Being good stewards of our natural resources is an important component of UC Davis Dining Services sustainability program. The following initiatives are being taken to reduce the use of natural resources:

  • 100% recycled paper for all printers, copiers and fax machines
  • reusing single-sided paper and practicing double-sided printing in all operations
  • bagless facilities, unless upon request
  • no plastic bags
  • compostable, renewable wood- based cutlery for campus events and catering
  • paperless orders
  • working with vendors to provide compostable/recyclable/reusable packaging
  • bulk packaging and ordering
  • reusable dishware in resident dining rooms, Gunrock Pub and an option for catering events
  • styrofoam-free campus


Reusable to go containers

Reusables are prioritized over recyclables at any and all times possible. Resident dining commons do not offer any disposable food packaging. Each dining commons offers a “Meals To-Go” program. Students purchase a reusable box with one meal swipe and are able to bring a meal, with food from the all-you-care-to-eat dining commons, with them to eat outside of the building. At a later time, students return the used box to receive another, if they desire to do so. Students may only use the reusable boxes provided by Dining Services for his or her Meals To-Go meal.



The Dining Services sustainability staff serves as stewards for the environment, our food system, and sustainability in food specific issues. Education is an integral piece to Dining Services and guides our actions daily as well as the larger vision. Students, many as volunteers, collaborate and work with Dining Services staff, students, and other stakeholders to engage on a variety of causes or opportunities. Student Coordinators and Interns are passionate and driven, furthering the goals of Dining Services and reach of impact to the campus community. Read more about the students who work with us here.


Sharing best practices

UC Davis Dining Services is passionate about sustainability, reducing our negative impacts, and increasing our positive impacts. We value sharing best practices while working hard to focus on opportunities to improve. Sharing and learning from other dining operations, colleges, and universities is important in furthering sustainability on a larger scale. Cooperating with our fellow sustainability stewards increases the benefits of the work we’re doing.





Composting and Food Waste Resources and Case Studies:


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