Dining at Green U

Kelly Dunn is sustainability coordinator for Boston University's dining services. Kelly Dunn is sustainability coordinator for Boston University's dining services. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Devra First
Globe Staff / January 28, 2009

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We've heard a lot about the green restaurant movement recently. Local universities, which feed large numbers of students daily, are also working to be more environmentally friendly. Boston University, for example, recently hired Kelly Dunn to be the sustainability coordinator for the school's dining services, a newly created position. We spoke with her about compostable spoons, students' concerns, and her job, which she started in October.

Q. What are some things BU is doing in this arena?

A. We recycle. We have waste oil picked up. We've converted to using green chemicals in all dining operations - cleaning products, dish detergents. We went trayless. That's a huge energy and water savings. We're looking at all the equipment we use in our kitchens, seeing what alternatives are more energy efficient. We want to be ahead of the curve and try new products that will help us with our mission of being more responsible.

Q. Do you compost?

A. Yes, at all residential halls and dining facilities. Right now in the George Sherman Union we're working on having all service ware be 100 percent compostable. We've had some challenges with spoons. They were compostable, but they were starting to melt in soup.

Q. Are the students very concerned with these issues?

A. They're growing up with this notion that they're going to inherit this planet. They're very aware, and very proactive. I work with a number of student groups on campus, such as Slow Food BU. I definitely see it as a partnership.

Q. What kinds of things are students asking for?

A. They want more food produced locally. It's not just about "organic" anymore. They're asking for fair trade, cage-free, GMO-free, Rainforest Alliance, certified humane products. They know all the labels.

Q. Don't college kids eat good old-fashioned junk food anymore?

A. You still also have a host of students who want pizza and burgers and Chinese food at 2 a.m. It's a mix. It can be really challenging with a high volume of students to serve everybody's needs. We need vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, but options that also taste good.

Q. What's your favorite sustainable food at the dining halls?

A. I'm a big tomato fan. In tomato season we get great ones from Ward's Berry Farm.

Q. Do you ever get locavore backlash from students, say, in the winter?

A. We definitely try to mix it up. We're not just going to offer squash every day for four months. But complaints are free-flowing. There's always going to be something to improve.

Q. Are many universities making dining services sustainable?

A. The Boston area is a hotbed of activity. You have clusters across the country, on both coasts and around cities. More and more this is becoming a trend.