Green Initiatives  |  Culinary Practices   |  Coffee with a Conscious   |  Sustainable Purchasing   |  Recycling

USD Dining strives to offer fresh, wholesome foods and quality services in a sustainable way. We consider the environmental impact of our decisions and offer an array of eco-friendly cuisine that is good for you and mindful of the environment.

Green Initiatives

Reducing Food Waste

  • Toreros Against Hunger program (2019)
    • Donations of unused food (that has not been served to the public) is offered to San Diego Rescue Mission
    • Food Recovery donation program for students via text alerts
    • Utilization of the biohitech digester for scraps that can’t be donated
  • USD was the first college campus to install a Biohitech Digester. (2009)
    • University Center and Student Life Pavilion Dining units and Hospitality (USD Catering and La Gran Terraza) utilize this innovative machine
      • A highly-refined formula of microorganisms and water break down all food scraps into liquid. Food waste is entirely eliminated in approximately 24 hours, allowing the effluent to return to the ecosystem as gray water. 
      • Learn more about this fascinating technology via the Biohitech website.
  • USD Dining is 100% tray-free. This greatly reduces the amount of food waste and saves tremendous resources, such as water, dish soap and electricity. (2008)

 Reducing Single-Use Paper Products

  • USD Dining was the first campus in California to offer a sustain-a-bottle Freestyle beverage program. The program is open to students, faculty, staff and visitors. (2016)
    • All meal plan holders who are designated first year and second year new student meal plan holders are eligible to receive a free sustain-a-bottle during Ole weekend/orientation. (Provided by Auxiliary Services)
    • All new USD full time employees are given a free sustain-a-bottle during their orientation via Human Resources. (Provided by Auxiliary Services)
    • The reusable sustain-bottle has a unique RFID chip that allows one to purchase a semester's worth of refreshment at one time. Bottle includes 2 free fills. Keeps disposable cups, lids and straws out of the landfill. 
    • Bottle is stainless steel and insulated (drinks stay cold for up to 24 hours and hot drinks hot for up to 10). Bottle is BPA free.
  • Disposable-ware Management
    • At our largest dining facility, Pavilion Dining, we provide silverware, china dishware and reusable containers for dining-in. Diners are encouraged to use china rather than a single-use To-Go box.
    • We now offer a Ozzi reusable to-go container pilot program. Containers may be purchased and used at the Student Life Pavilion (Tu Mercado and Pavilion Dining, 2020)
    • During all you-care-to-eat meal periods (dinner: Monday-Sunday, brunch: Saturday-Sunday). Location: Pavilion Dining, Student Life Pavilion
      • To-Go containers are only available by request (at the registers) during dinner Sunday-Thursday only. (2017)
      • Disposable soft drink cups (aka ‘Coke” cups) are not distributed / available for free. This encourages students to bring their own reusable vessel, or sustain-a-bottle, which saves resources. (2016)
      • In addition to no Coke cups, coffee and juice cups are also no longer available. (2019)
    • During all meal periods, condiments (ketchup, dressings, etc.) are available in bulk containers rather than single-use packets. 

Reducing Single-Use Plastic / Elimination of Styrofoam

  • Straws
    • Disposable straws are made of paper (instead of plastic) at all campus dining units. (2018)
    • Reusable stainless steel straw sets are available for purchase in all campus retail units. (2018)
    • In accordance with local and state laws – no straws are given out at La Gran Terraza restaurant. Paper straws are only available upon request by the customer. (2018)
  • Retail units do not distribute plastic (single-use) bags. (2014)
  • USD Dining and Catering are 100% styrofoam-free.

 Culinary Practices and Operations

  • USD Dining/Catering has been trans-fat free (since 2005). We use a unique zero-trans fat, canola-corn oil blend that is low in saturated fat, has no greasy aftertaste and contains zero grams of trans-fat per serving. 
    • The used oil is recycled and turned into biodiesel by New Leaf Bio-Fuel. (Biodiesel directly displaces diesel fuel usage, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80%).
  • Our seasonal menus are thoughtfully planned to cross-utilize ingredients in recipes while keeping sustainability and efficiency at the forefront:
    • We source the freshest, natural, raw proteins in bulk and then add our own wholesome ingredients to create an array of unique dishes with minimal processing. 
    • Each day we prepare whole fruits and vegetables for our salad bars from scratch. (Fun fact: all pineapples we receive come to us without the tops! This helps reduce the university’s volume of food scraps).
    • All dining locations offer vegetarian and vegan dishes. Try going Meatless on Mondays! Enjoy an all vegan menu each night at the live action cooking station - Clean Earth Kitchen - located inside Pavilion Dining. 
    • Our culinary team completed a comprehensive plant-forward training with the Culinary Institute of America to incorporate more plant based ingredients into our menus. (2019)

Sustainable Purchasing

  • Sustainable purchasing practices are followed for all products - food, packaging, merchandise and more. 
    • We carefully select vendors that have strong sustainability standards and practices. 
    • We require consolidated food and merchandise deliveries from our vendors, thus cutting down on natural resources and our carbon footprint while saving on costs. 
  • We utilize a menu management software (CBord) that allows us to purchase strict minimums of products as needed. This also allows us to buy “just in time” which reduces waste and our carbon footprint. 
  • We work closely with our prime food vendor, Sysco, to continue to provide an increasing number of sustainably sourced foods. Sysco Social Responsibility
  • Organic and natural food and merchandise are available in all locations via a partnership with United Natural Foods, Inc. UNFI Sustainability Reports
  •  Fresh Point is our produce provider. 
    • The produce procurement priorities we have established are: #1 to be within the state of California, #2 within a 250 mile radius of USD, and #3 within the southwest US region.
  • Coca-Cola's Sustainability Report (university's prime beverage provider) 
    • Coca-Cola has installed a new rain barrel collection system at the USD Valley community garden. (2019) 
  • Menus utilize ingredients from the USD Valley community garden. 
  • All hamburger is 100% certified organic Australian Beef.
  • 80% of our baked goods are made within 15 miles of USD. This supports the local economy and decreases our carbon footprint.
  • All cleaning chemicals and detergents are green certified (EcoLab).
  • Sustainable disposable-ware:
    • Straws are available on-request and are made of paper instead of plastic.
    • Paper plates are made from 100% reclaimed fiber, unbleached and compostable.
    • The vast majority of disposable packaging is greenware (made of recycled content and/or biodegradable).
    • Clear cups for cold beverages are made of polylactic acid from corn. Cups for hot beverages are made from renewable fiber with polylactic acid lining.
    • Coffee sleeves and napkins are made of 100% recycled fibers. Wood stir sticks are compostable.
    • Disposable flatware (EarthChoice PSM Cutlery) is a blend of materials, the majority of which is starch. 50% of the base material comes from corn. It does not come from corn originally intended for human consumption and is not genetically modified. 
  • Tu Mercado is a natural foods grocery store that features earth-friendly products; foods, health, beauty and home goods. 
    • Tu Mercado is a NACUFS “Best in the Business” Campus C-Store award winner for Incorporating Sustainability into a Campus Store. (2010)

Coffee with a Conscious

  • All dining locations feature alumni-owned, locally operated, Ryan Bros. Fair Trade and organic coffees and teas. 
    • Fair Trade occurs when the grower receives a fair price for his/her coffee. Fair Trade growers also must meet the following criteria: (1) high quality product, (2) workers are treated, housed, fed, educated, and paid above average levels, and (3) the surrounding environment is treated with the respect it deserves.
  • China cups are available for in-house use in retail coffee locations (Aromas, Bert’s Bistro, La Paloma, L’atelier, Bosley Fitness Center Cafe). 
  • Bring your own travel mug and receive a discount: $ .50 off coffee and te, and $ .25 off espresso drinks and tea lattes.
  • USD Coffees and Teas, in partnership with Ryan Bros. Coffee, are now available in bulk packaging for you to enjoy at home!


  • USD Auxiliaries are a part of the university-wide efforts to address the need for additional recycling and sustainability options on campus and waste reduction goals. 
  • New, well labeled, recycling and trash bins were purchased by USD Dining for use in the Student Life Pavilion - dining rooms on floors 1 and 2. (2018)
  • Cardboard packaging is reused or recycled. 
  • Office paper is recycled. 
  • Most consumer food and beverage packaging can be recycled. 
  • Aromas coffeehouse coffee grounds are donated to the campus mulch piles for gardening.

Recycling Resources: on-campus and off-campus