Reducing Waste

Photo of a seed sprouting in compost

Processing Food Waste

The Dining Commons has been built with a food dehydrator system that will process and dehydrate food waste in less than 24 hours before being locally composted. On campus, there are strong efforts to divert nearly all food waste, both pre- and post-consumer, to composting.

Reusable Containers

Mount Holyoke Dining has been decreasing plastic waste by increasing options for reusable containers on campus.

In 2014, Mount Holyoke had a pilot campaign where all new students were gifted reusable mugs. Additionally, all paper to-go cups were removed from dining halls during dinner. These two facts together resulted in a reduction in cups of 81,650 and about $5,000 in spending savings. This reduction in cups also translates to 3.3 tons of paper and 23,201 gallons of water that would be needed to make those cups.

Starting in early 2022 Mount Holyoke Dining Services will be starting a new takeout program in partnership with USEFULL. This program provides students flexibility in dining options while reducing waste, carbon emissions and expense associated with traditional takeout containers. Takeout with our USEFULL reusable container program is provided at no cost to the students unless the containers are not returned.

Policy for Personal Containers

Personal containers include all tupperware, china, paper products, etc.

Due to state law and local public health code requirements, Dining Services cannot allow any personal containers, china, plastic or paper, to be brought into our dining rooms or kitchens.  These health codes were established to prevent any possible cross-contamination of food products that we serve.  Even though the container may be cleaned with soap and water, this does not ensure that it has been properly sanitized or stored in a sanitary manner.  Therefore, there is the possibility that bacteria could still exist on the container.  For example, someone puts food product into a plastic or china container with the provided serving utensil.  The container may not have been properly sanitized and that serving utensil touches the container. This is where there is the potential that the utensil, when placed back into the container, could contaminate the remaining product.  Paper products are not allowed either, since Dining Services has not purchased and stored the product. This policy assures us of proper practices for handling in delivery and in storage.

Dining Services is responsible for taking precautions against cross-contamination by using both chemical and heat (hot water) to destroy bacteria for cleaning all of our dishes and utensils.  The only exception that the local board of health will allow is personal wide mouth mugs and water bottles.  This is only allowed if the container, when placed on the beverage tray or drip pan, does not touch the nozzle of the beverage machine.  We encourage all students to use their reusable beverage bottles for “take-out” purposes in the dining halls and in dining centers.

For information on recycling at Mount Holyoke, visit the Miller Worley Center for the Environment’s page on Waste Reduction & Recycling.