UConn Becomes Only University with Four-Star Certification at All Dining Halls

'UConn has set an example for universities across the nation. This achievement is unmatched'

Students walking inside Putnam Dining Hall.

Students walking inside Putnam Dining Hall. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

UConn Storrs has achieved the singular distinction of being the only U.S. college campus on which every dining hall holds the coveted Four-Star Certified Green Restaurants designation.

UConn also recently received top honors for sustainability practices at the Whitney, McMahon, and Putnam dining halls for reducing waste, conserving water, minimizing pollution and chemicals, and other environmentally friendly procedures.

The designation as the nation’s only campus with fully four-star dining halls comes about six years after it became among the first and only universities to receive at least one star of certification at every site.

Putnam received the University’s first four-star designation in 2018, followed by others in the succeeding years. With the addition of Whitney and Gelfenbien earlier this year, all UConn eight dining halls had reached the highest possible certification by excelling in hundreds of measures calculated as part of the review process.

“UConn has set an example for universities across the nation. This achievement is unmatched,” Green Restaurants Association CEO and founder Michael Oshman says.

The dining hall sustainability practices are part of a larger institutional effort at UConn to become an international model of sustainability in its operations, academics, and research.

The recently announced awards for the McMahon, Putnam, and Whitney facilities illustrate many of the sustainable practices that UConn Dining has instituted at its locations over the years.

They range from trayless dining to reduce food waste and water usage to measuring pre-consumer waste, sending waste to be transformed into biogas and compost, recycling cooking oil, and many others. Dining is also the largest procurer of local produce in Connecticut.

UConn Dining Services Executive Director Michael White says university dining operations have a moral imperative to review their programs and find ways to reduce their environmental footprint.

“As part of paying attention to our facilities, we can take many important steps such as requiring environmentally safe materials to be used during construction projects and emphasizing to vendors that we want only clean packaging materials,” White says.

“We also have to concern ourselves with where our food comes from, how far it must travel to reach us, how to reduce water use in our operations, and following food waste to a purposeful end,” he says.

Dining halls achieve Four-Star Certified Green Restaurant certification by practicing sustainable approaches in eight categories: saving energy, conserving water, avoiding and recycling waste, adopting more reusable supplies in place of disposable items, reducing chemicals and pollution, local food sourcing, green-friendly facilities, and education and transparency.

The recently announced awards to the Putnam, Whitney, and McMahon facilities recognized outstanding achievement in specific areas:

• Putnam received the Chemical & Pollution Reduction Award for its initiatives to minimize chemicals and various forms of pollution, including its use of a green-certified pest management system, green hand soaps, and green cleaners.

• Whitney earned the Waste Reduction Award for its wide-ranging programs to reduce waste, including by recycling plastic, glass, aluminum, paper, cardboard, grease, and fluorescent lamps. It also makes quarterly food bank donations, has an active composting program, filters and reuses vegetable oil, uses solid detergents in cleaning its cooking ware, and has bulk packaging for 80% of condiments and 100% of milks and creamers.

• McMahon was recognized with the Water Conservation Award for the many ways in which it avoids unnecessary water use. Some initiatives include its high-efficiency pre-rinse spray valves, low-flow faucet aerators, high-efficiency toilets and urinals, Energy Star-qualified appliances, low-water landscaping, and its use of greywater (water that has already been used for washing dishes and other purposes that make it unfit to drink) for mechanical operations.

Students and their families can view the scores in each category for all of the UConn dining facilities by clicking on the GRA logo next to the dining unit’s name on the Department of Dining Services’ online listing of locations.

The distinction of being the only campus on which every dining hall holds the Four-Star Certified Green Restaurants distinction comes in addition to recognition it has also received from other organizations.

It also has received the Sustainable Foodservice Leaders Award from the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS), the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge Award, and other honors.