Serving up sustainability

Student experience
Student life
Dining Hall
Serving trays filled with hot food in the Dining Hall
Here’s how our Dining Hall became the first in Canada to achieve four-star Green Restaurant certification, and what you can do to dine ethically and support sustainability.

Anne Goodwin, registered dietitian and food sustainability lead with uOttawa Food Services, explains that this distinction was the result of a long journey that required many green improvements over several years. 

“We have been certified as a three-star green restaurant since 2018. This four-star rating is a big step above and the highest level you can get. Not only are we the first Canadian university to achieve this — we’re the first of any restaurant in Canada,” Goodwin says. 

Everything from diverting waste by composting and recycling to reducing water and energy consumption is carefully checked and monitored through a Green Restaurant Association points system. 

Here’s an overview of some action areas that led to the Dining Hall securing Canada’s first four-star certification

Achieving zero waste

The University’s goal is to become a zero-waste campus by 2050. One major step taken in 2015 was to make the Dining Hall a zero-waste experience. At the end of your meal, just head over to the compost station, scrape your scraps into the compost and sort your dirty dishes. 

Reusable cups, plates and cutlery

The Dining Hall has reusable cups, plates and cutlery. With an average of 8,000 meals served a day, this means we avoid sending over a million disposable items to the landfill every year. In fact, all “to-go” restaurants on campus are shifting towards compostable wooden cutlery, in line with the federal ban on single-use plastics. Better yet — why not do your part by buying a Gee-Gees sustainable stainless steel cutlery set

Used cooking oil is diverted for use as biofuel

All of the used cooking oil from the Dining Hall is collected, transported off campus and brought to a facility to be converted into renewable diesel. This is a low-emission alternative to petroleum diesel made from cooking oil waste products and only produces 15% of the emissions.  

Waste not, want not

The responsibility to waste less food is not just left to the consumer. Dining Hall staff are trained to reduce food waste wherever possible. Surplus fruit gets added to smoothies, and leftover baked goods from cafés on campus are often served in the Dining Hall in the evenings. 

Sourcing food locally

Cheese curds on the poutine are from Fromagerie St-Albert, milk and ice-cream are from the Laiterie de l’Outaouais, breads are from the Ottawa Bagel Shop and Deli and a selection of pastas is from Parma Ravioli. Reducing how far food travels before it gets to your plate reduces carbon emissions. 

Earth-friendly cleaning practices

Food Services follows uOttawa’s green cleaning standard, which means using only environmentally friendly cleaning materials, janitorial paper products and trash bags.

What can you do?

“Students can help by becoming one of our Green Reps to do things like waste audits and waste sorting at uOttawa events,” says Holly Gordon of uOttawa’s Office of Campus Sustainability. 

“If you are eating at the Dining Hall, you can also do your part for sustainability by reducing the amount of compost you create. A few tips: take smaller portions, return for more after and ask for samples if you aren’t sure you’ll like something.”  

Eat well with a clear conscience 

Even if you don’t have a meal plan, you can enjoy a sustainable dining experience and give yourself a treat, knowing that you’ll be dining much more ethically than by ordering take-out or going to a fast-food restaurant, or even eating at most other restaurants. Try out the Dining Hall over Reading Week, while it’s a bit quieter. Breakfast is $11.47 + tax, lunch $16 + tax and dinner $17.20 + tax for students, staff and alumni.