Waste visibility and being conscious of how much we are throwing away is a critical step in the waste reduction process. Here at UMass, the majority of the to-go containers, plates, bowls, cups, lids, napkins, straws, and utensils are compostable, yet most of these items end up in a garbage can rather than a compost due to convenience.
Our dear friend the trash monster is retiring, and we need your help to design a replacement! Lurking in Blue Wall Cafe near the dish return, the trash monster has stood as a reminder to students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus that the waste we create does not disappear – it simply ends up somewhere else.
While it is important to “think before you throw,” it is even more essential to “think before you take.” This means considering how much food you are actually going to eat (rather than how much you think you want) and whether or not you really need to take it in a to-go container. Ceramic plates and bowls and metal utensils are always available in the Campus Center. Think carefully and choose wisely; the trash monster is watching all of us.
In order to continue to spread waste awareness, we are looking for a new group of students who want to participate in a unique campaign to reduce waste with their own creation. If you have an idea for a new trash monster design, check out the entry details here. Entries are due Tuesday, October 2nd, and the winning concept will receive $500 to use towards building the project! The winning design will be announced on Thursday, October 12th
On July 26, 2017 UMass Dining hosted a Poultry Gathering to facilitate a conversation with our community about how the local poultry industry can be supported, improved, and expanded. More than 45 people from sectors across the poultry industry attended, including local poultry producers, State and Federal agricultural agencies, Nonprofit organizations, and institutional food service operators from the Pioneer Valley. The gathering was created to identify priority actions for growing the region's poultry economy and increasing the production and consumption of humanely and sustainably raised local poultry.
At the beginning of the meeting, UMass Dining set forth an ambitious goal to double the amount of local chicken it purchases annually (principally from Massachusetts poultry farmers), to help other institutions do the same, and to increase of the state’s production of local, humane and sustainable chicken by doing so.
The meeting closed after several small group discussions where participants discussed what it would take to increase poultry production in Massachusetts including attracting new farmers and allied investments, as well as increasing the likelihood of success through processing, storage, and infrastructure improvements.
The next Poultry Gathering will be held on Thursday, November 2nd 2017 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. If you or someone you know would like to attend the upcoming gathering, please email Brittany Florio, Senior Sustainability Coordinator at BFlorio@umass.edu.
This week, the 23rd annual Tastes of the World Chef Culinary Conference hosted by UMass Dining has returned! The theme of this year’s conference is The Power of Food, which encompass all aspects of food, including nutrition, community, food security, and sustainability. The conference focuses on the unique power and influence that high-volume food service operators and campus chefs have on our flawed food system. Chefs have the power to make our food more fair, healthy, and sustainable through their tremendous purchasing power and their influence on the food choices of young consumers. The annual Chef Conference hopes to empower chefs to question norms and tradition, ask questions about where the food they are serving is coming from, and to push innovations in our food system forward one meal at a time. Hundreds of participants registered for the five day long conference, attending workshops, presentations, and competitions to improve their own culinary skills, waste reduction strategies, and sourcing practices.
Check out Seafood Watch’s Recommendations to see what species of fish you should look for or avoid!
Thanks so much to everyone who attended this year's conference for making it such a success!
Be sure to check out the Tastes of the World Chef Culinary Conference next year from June 3rd – June 8th, 2018!
Photos by Keith Toffling.
Freshly mulched paths at Berkshire Garden.
We started with our crew last week, and so far a lot has been accomplished. We began with a giant pile of wood chips from a local landscaping company. Every year, the paths in the permaculture gardens must be covered with wood chips. The chips deter weeds from growing, hold in moisture, and keep the gardens looking fresh and new. We spread about 25 cubic yards of wood chips in Franklin garden alone.
Wood chips or an alternative mulch are often utilized in no-till agriculture. All of the UMass permaculture gardens are maintained without tillage or turning of the soil. Tillage is used to prepare beds for planting crops, but it has many down sides. It increases erosion and loss of organic matter. Tilling the soil also disturbs microbes, fungi, and worms until they no longer reside there. No-till is a practice in which farmers do not till their soil and instead keep the soil covered and plant directly into the un-plowed earth. There are some difficulties to doing this, but it is better for the plants, microbes, and environment.
In the permaculture gardens, we spread wood chips in areas where we do not want weeds to go, like in the paths. To plant our crops, we dig right into the soil without any bed preparation or plowing. Once the crops are planted, we cover the surrounding soil with straw to prevent weeds and hold moisture in. This is a perfect environment for plants to grow and microorganisms to thrive. There is never a shortage of worms in a no-till system, and we have plenty in the permaculture gardens. Worms actually will feed on the wood chips and come to the surface to do so. In their travels, they aerate the soil which increases it ability to support life.
We must start with the soil if we are to have healthy ecosystems. In the permaculture gardens, our soil is top priority and always cozy and covered.
Cucumber and lettuce plants cozy warm under a bed of straw.
We would like to thank NRC 185 students Tyler Weeks, Ryan Martin, Steven Chang, and Kayla Jewett for their time and passion! Check out their beautifully crafted video below to learn more about their experience!
Thank you to Xochi Salazar and Lena Fletcher for all of your hard work and dedication to hands-on student learning!
NRC 185: Sustainable Living in the 21st Century is only offered in the spring. However, NRC 100: Environment and Society is also instructed by Professor Lena Fletcher and is still open for fall enrollment!
Franklin Permaculture Garden
Fresh is an uplifting, critically acclaimed documentary that explores our current food system and ways to eat like a locavore even in a Massachusetts winter. The film peers into the hopeful world of sustainable agriculture. The film screening will be held on Monday, December 5th in the Berkshire Room located in Berkshire Dining Commons from 5pm-7pm and will follow with a short discussion afterwards.
UMass Permaculture also welcomes you to hand make customized holiday gifts on Monday, December 12th from 5pm-7pm in the Hampshire Lobby Meeting Room located in Hampshire Dining Commons. These gifts will include sugar scrubs, soaps, lip balms and sachets - all using herbs grown in the five permaculture gardens! Personalize your handmade gifts at the event's wrapping and decorating station.
Through her Economics background, Jess hopes to bridge the gap between environment and business, She is intent on fighting against greenwashing in popular culture and committing the principles of sustainability to heart. In particular, she also cares deeply about issues such as poverty, social inequality, and food insecurity.
In her free time, Jess enjoys binge watching sitcoms, hanging out with her beloved sorority sisters, exploring new places, drinking tea, and reading humorous celebrity memoirs. On campus, she facilitates a sustainability-focused seminar called Eco-Rep and is involved with cultural groups. She also volunteers to give back to the organizations in and around the Pioneer Valley.
Kayleigh hopes to empower others to care about social and environmental issues and inspire them to do all that they can for each other and the natural world around them. She believes, as Jane Goodall once said, that "what you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."
In Kayleigh's spare time she loves making art, cooking, spending time outdoors, visiting the ocean, and being with her friends and sisters. On campus she is involved in the UMass Divestment from Fossil Fuels Campaign, Talking Truth, the Real Food Challenge, Plant-Based Nutrition Club, and the iCons program. She is also an Eco-Rep facilitator and the Vice President of the Climateers, a student group on campus for students that care about the environment.
We informed our guests of the vast improvements we have made to our dining halls in the past fiscal year, more specifically in local and sustainable purchasing. $2 million was spent on Massachusetts farms & businesses - a 17% increase from last fiscal year. Including Massachusetts, a total of $3.5 million was spent on New England area farms and businesses - a 30% increase from FY 2015. Along with the increase in total expenditure, there were increases in spending for sustainable alternatives in every single food category from FY 2015. The most notables increases were exhibited through spending on dairy (68% more than FY 2015) as well as produce (55% more).
The gleaned butternut squash were also included in the UMass Fresh boxes for an Autumn Stew recipe. UMass Fresh is a new program that aims to support our local economy while addressing the issue of food insecurity in our community. Each UMass Fresh box includes organic local produce, perfectly proportioned ingredients, and a step by step recipe to recreate the meal! Each box will feed 4-6 people and it adopts a "pay what you will" model.
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.