Sustainability Column: Chartwells Goes Local and Green

Seamus Crowley

Colgate’s food service provider, Chartwells, has been on campus for over a year now and their transition has resulted in numerous transformations within the dining facilities. These changes have had a wide effect, impacting everything from physical dining spaces to meal plans. The one thing that Chartwells has changed the most is the sustainability efforts of dining on campus. Despite this, the changes regarding sustainability within our dining are probably the least noticed by students on a regular basis. The efforts put forth by Chartwells, in coordination with the university, have resulted in many positive and sustainable changes throughout campus, but have most notably impacted packaging and food.

Chartwells has made significant improvements in the sourcing of food by introducing local foods in many areas of the dining service. Local food at Colgate comes from within a 250-mile radius, and within that zone, Chartwells is currently utilizing 53 different providers – a number that will continue to grow during Chartwells’ operations at Colgate. Having such a large amount of local food in Colgate’s dining facilities substantially reduces the carbon footprint of the food we eat, contributing to a more sustainable lifestyle for all of us. In addition to a significant portion of Colgate’s food being produced locally, more of the food on campus now comes from sources that are sustainable for livestock. This food is also a healthier option for students. Moreover, Chartwells is providing eggs that come from chickens living in humane and cage-free conditions, poultry that is antibiotic-free and yogurt and milk that do not contain artificial growth hormones. These changes are not only made to promote a healthier student body, but also provide more

sustainable options. 

In the past, supplying food to all students on campus has resulted in massive amounts of waste, particularly regarding the use of packaging. Those large, white, clamshell-esque to-go containers that we have all seen in the Coop were a nightmare from a sustainability perspective. In fact, last year we were going through 1,700 each week, according to Chartwells. However, just this year, Chartwells has done away with the vast majority of those containers and replaced them with a far more sustainable alternative: “’gate-to-go.” At the start of this year, all first-years received a token to obtain their own, re-usable ’gate-to-go container. This resource is also available to all students, faculty and staff. The system is extremely simple to use and has made it easy for students to take food to go from the COOP while still being sustainable. Once you’re done using a ’gate-to-go, all you have to do is return it to be washed, and you can grab your next clean container.

While the sustainablity efforts of Chartwells may not be easily seen, they are creating a significant impact that will help Colgate reduce its environmental footprint while creating a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle for all students.