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Rich Turnbull–Issues of Sustainability

Posted November 11th, 2009 by Allyson

I receive many inquiries about sustainability and our sustainable practices at Dining Services.  Sustainability has a variety of meanings.  Sometimes it’s used to refer to environmental concerns.  Sometimes it’s used to refer to nutrition and healthy food choices.  Sometimes it’s used to refer to social and ethical concerns around food production.  I tend to look at it from the perspective of, “What do I have control over and how can Dining Services purchasing and menu decisions impact the overall health of the OSU community while at the same time not becoming the Food Dictator?”

Fortunately OSU has taken a strong lead in sustainability issues and I’ve had the opportunity to speak in a variety of forums on sustainable practices in college food service.  While I’m flattered to be asked to speak, that doesn’t make me an expert.  It is something that I care about and continue to learn about and my opinions and beliefs have changed over time.

But let me share with you some of the things we are doing.  For the past several years we have been involved in composting pre-consumer waste.  This is food waste like damaged lettuce leaves that are removed prior to cleaning and chopping lettuce for the salad bars.  It includes carrot peels and all vegetable waste that occurs during the production of the over 2 million meals we prepare and serve each year.  For several years we have been requesting the opportunity to compost post-consumer waste which involves composting food and bio-degradeable food containers.  The regulations governing post-consumer waste are very strict.  The concern has to do with introducing human pathogens back into the soil and potentially resulting in contamination of food grown in that soil.  However, Allied Waste, our local garbage collector, has a composting program and we are working with them on a trial basis doing post-consumer waste composting at Marketplace West.  This has the potential of removing a significant amount of waste from the landfill as well as for providing local farmers with a nutrient rich source of compost for organic crops.

As part of this research we are converting our to-go containers to bio-degradeable products.  We are working with a local Corvallis company, Ecnow Tech, to provide and develop products for the food service industry.  This process of conversion will take place over a few years as there are still some product solutions that need to be developed.

Another area where I receive lots of questions has to do with shrinking our carbon footprint by buying locally.  We buy our beef from Country Natural Beef and other local ranches.  We also buy our pork and lamb from local ranchers.  The vast majority of our dairy products are Oregon products.  Our bread is local.  Much of our produce is grown locally, especially products we serve during the Oregon growing season.  Our first priority in purchasing is to buy local when possible, and organic when cost effective and practical.  Even if products like coffee are grown at significant distances from Corvallis we work with local roasters like Allann Brothers and Starbucks who utilize fair trade practices.

There’s lots of other stuff we are doing, so if you have questions don’t hesitate to shoot me and email or give me a call.

Best regards,

Rich Turnbull

Associate Director

University Housing And Dining Services


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