NIU Dining, Green Team team for Earth Day

Photo of a basket of fresh vegetablesHungry students entering the New Hall Community Center for dinner Monday, April 22, were puzzled to find an all-electric NIU Building Services vehicle parked at the front door.

Along with the all-electric vehicle, out of 143 “green” vehicles the university owns, members of the NIU Green Team sat at a table in the community center lobby, handing out information about the Green Lens Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in downtown DeKalb, Green Team coasters and a battery recycling station.

Meanwhile, students eating at dining halls around campus noticed a different theme to their dinner that evening as well as “action stations” that served up stir fry in addition to posters, handbills and flyers related to Earth Day, an annual worldwide event to demonstrate support for environmental protection.

“Each hall is in charge of picking a special dinner for a month during the semester. Neptune had the month of April and decided to go with an Earth Day theme,” said Brian Pringnitz, unit manager for Neptune dining hall. “We try to bring in fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms that are coming into season now.”

Some of the foods below had an Earth Day theme:

  • Stir fry bar featuring beef, chicken, tofu, a wide assortment of fresh vegetables and a choice of sauce, all served with rice.
  • Chicken fricassee served with whole wheat pasta
  • Lime tortilla-crusted tilapia
  • Spinach vegetarian lasagna
  • Flame-roasted redskin potatoes with vegetables
  • Fresh asparagus
  • Sauteed carrots and zucchini
  • Jalapeño cream cheese poppers
  • Citrus avocado salad
  • Black-eyed peas and quinoa salad
  • “Dirt Cups”
  • NIU Earth Day cookies

Dines also could examine posters that displayed information collected from an NIU Dining project conducted last year which determined that students waste an appalling amount of food.

“More than 40 percent of all food produced in America is not eaten, according to research by former University of Arizona anthropologist Timothy Jones. That amounts to more than 29 million tons of food waste each year, or enough to fill the Rose Bowl every three days. Nationwide, food scraps make up 17 percent of what we send to landfills,” according to the poster.

Photo of a globe marble in grassIn honor of Earth Day this spring, students were challenged to reduce their food waste.

A new study was conducted this spring between Neptune (with trays) and New Hall (no trays). Samples were taken on two separate days: Wednesday, April 10, and Monday, April 22.

  • On April 10, in New Hall, the first sample showed an average of 2.77 ounces of waste per customer; in Neptune, the average amount of waste was 7.33 ounces per customer.
  • On April 22, New Hall waste per customer was an average of 1.93 ounces; the average amount climbed in Neptune to 7.34 ounces per customer.

“We are seeing a difference in our dining halls,” Pringnitz said. “There is a difference between tray and trayless. If you have a tray, you tend on carrying more food than you would if you didn’t have a tray.”

by Brandon Grosz

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