Campus Life

Food Services gets greener with environmental initiatives

University Park, Pa. — This fall, Penn State Food Services is initiating new environmental programs in an effort to be greener and become more environmentally conscious. Students will soon see several changes being made across Penn State campuses in order to conserve resources and better the world.
Lisa Wandel, director of residential dining at University Park, said environmental stewardship is a top priority for Food Services and hopes this generation of students will join the movement.
“I have faith that this generation is one that cares,” Wandel said. 
Food Services is replacing disposable containers with biodegradable disposables, including plates, bowls and hinged compartments. There will also be reusable canvas shopping bags available for customers to buy at on-campus convenience stores instead of using plastic bags.
Additionally, the biodegradable dishes from the South Food District at Redifer will be sent to a compost facility at University Park where they will then be turned into rich compost to be used in University landscaping projects. Another project that Food Services has developed is converting used frying oil from Findlay and Pollock Dining Commons into fuel to run tractors and campus vehicles at Penn State.
Other campuses, too, are participating in this push to help the earth. Ed Mulfinger, regional director of Housing and Food Services of Commonwealth Campuses, said every campus has its own unique feeling. A pilot of offering biodegradable dishes ran at Penn State Berks last fall, and this helped the University gather feedback and improve.
At Penn State Altoona, employees grow a vegetable garden outside the dining commons so fresh vegetables can be used when they are in season. According to Wandel, University Park is hoping to have its own garden near Pollock Commons soon.
Mulfinger added that it is “important for the University to be ahead of the curve. Hopefully we’ll have something for the next generation.”
At Penn State Mont Alto, Karen Kreger, the director of housing and food services, said they are trying to change the mindset of all the students and faculty. Kreger said, “We switched to as many green cleaning products as there are on the market.”
Food Services employees are at the forefront of this eco-friendly mission, and actions like not running unfilled dishwashers and using the stairs instead of elevators are now highly encouraged. These are only a couple simple ways to reduce energy. Furthermore, Food Services is committed to buying local food whenever it is financially feasible.
Wandel explained that refillable plastic mugs will soon be available at campus dining locations, and students can purchase 16-ounce mugs for coffee or fountain soda. She also added that any student interested in an internship related to this initiative may contact her via e-mail at

Last Updated March 19, 2009