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Sustainability on Campus - USM

Dining Services at USM recognizes the importance of social responsibility as it relates to food service and beyond. Our goal is to align with USM to provide leadership in this effort to adhere to the core elements of environmental responsibility. The dining team will collaborate with the Office of Environmental Sustainability to build a sustainable dining program that meets the needs and expectations of all constituents on campus. Furthermore, we support USM as a signator of the Talloire Declaration and pledge to be a committed partner. 

Locally sourced

USM Dining Services is one of 25 ARAMARK accounts participating in a local produce purchasing pilot to develop a national program within ARAMARK. Current local purchases are in excess of $450,000 or approximately 29.7% of total purchases. 

In Dining we have officially made the switch to Oakhurst milk in all of our operations across the state. With Oakhurst practically in the Portland campus's backyard, it makes a lot of sense to do business with them as a local dairy producer. Oakhurst's sustainability efforts align nicely with those of Dining and USM. From their effort to reduce fuel use during transport to their commitment to using local milk, Oakhurst is making a difference for the environment and for Maine. To learn more about how Oakhurst is setting an industry standard in sustainability, go here.

In addition to local dairy, we also support local agriculture. All of our fresh tomatoes come from Backyard Farms in Madison, Maine. These tomatoes, grown within 100 miles of USM, are picked riper and travel a shorter distance, making them a better quality product and more nutritious. We think that a red, ripe Backyard Farms tomato is one of the truly special Maine treats that we can bring to you.


We sell Coffee By Design coffee in our retail locations. As a company, Coffee By Design is committed to providing excellent coffee and has a high standard of environmental stewardship. They roast their beans in their Micro Roastery right in Portland. By dealing locally we can give back to the community within which we operate. We think you'll agree that their coffee is an excellent fit for USM.

We also serve New England's Central Highlands Blend in our dining hall. Both coffees are Fair Trade Certified, a certification that guarantees strict economic, social and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of the coffee.

Seasonal Foods
We seek to use seasonal products. Fall menus feature recipes with late-season berries, tomatoes, corn, and other vegetables. Winter menus bring hearty greens, potatoes, squash, root vegetables, apples & pears. Spring finds us celebrating the first shoots of spinach, asparagus, peas, & wild fare like ramps, fiddleheads, & mushrooms. Substantial produce is bought from Native Maine.

In addition,we supplement our offerings in the Residential Restaurant – RFoC with small crops of herbs and vegetables grown in our very own three season greenhouse and raised beds on the patio of Brooks Student Center. See the ‘Sustainable Food Program’ heading below for more information and read the USM Sustainability Blog

Waste Reduction
Dining Services and Facilities Management are currently working hard to provide a concrete compost system. Research is being completed through both offices and also by students for a class during the Fall 2011 semester. On-site and off-site opportunities will be explored before any decision is made. Although we are not currently composting, our food waste does go to a local pig farmer.

We are sensitive to the volume of plastic food containers utilized in our retail facilities.  In fall 2006 we replaced these containers with a compostable packaging product made from corn (PLA).  We are currently working to establish a system to sort, collect and compost them.

We offer reusable to-go containers in our retail operations in Portland and Gorham. This optional program features durable, microwavable, dishwasher-safe, and recyclable plastic to-go containers which can be used over 2000 times during their life. Students and staff are invited to participate for just an initial $3 deposit. Food can be put into the reusable containers to eat in or take out. Customers can return the empty container to the cashier when finished and receive either a clean container or a rain check to use to redeem a clean container at another time. We hope to greatly reduce our use of and waste associated with disposable take-out containers.

All USM Dining operations are plastic bag-free to reduce plastic waste. We encourage customers to bring their own bags for shopping. We also have strong, washable bags for sale that can be used for many purposes.

Our catering menu offers a china & silverware option at no additional charge.

We use napkins made from 100% recycled & 90% post consumer material. These napkins can be composted after use, further limiting waste.

In Gorham, since the installation of new Filtered Fryolators in 2003, we have reduced the consumption of shortening by 1,400 lbs. per year. We have also partnered with Maine Standard Biofuel to collect 100% our used fryer oil to be converted to biodiesel. The university can then buy back the fuel to power machinery and vehicles.

We actively participate in the university recycling program, collecting and sorting cans, glass, plastic, cardboard, paper, food residuals, & cooking shortening for proper disposal.

The University is also participating in RecycleMania!, a nationwide higher education competition each spring to increase awareness of and participation in recycling programs. Want to get involved or help spread the word? Email dining@usm.maine.edu

We currently offer a discount to customers that use their own cup for coffee and sell reusable mugs in our retail locations.

We have completely eliminated the use of trays, cutting the number of dishes to be washed in half and saving about 1,350 gallons of water a day. Because less water has to be heated, we are also saving energy! Less detergent is being used, which further protects our water. Tray-less dining has also significantly reduced the amount of food waste.

Careful planning & production, small-batch & just-in-time cooking, & keeping track of which menu items students prefer help us minimize overproduction and limit food waste.

We at Dining Services also work closely with the Sustainability Committee to seek energy savings, like reconfiguring service area lighting, disabling vending machine lighting, & installing state-of-the-art beverage vending machines that optimize efficiency. As a committee we are drafting a University Sustainability Pledge and are working to promote awareness of the many environmental issues around campus.

Environmentally Responsible Cleaning
ARAMARK has been a long-term partner with Ecolab, a supplier of cleaning supplies. We use their newest program, EcoLogic, which supports environmentally responsible cleaning, using products that help prevent toxic pollution and waste, conserve resources and habitats, minimize global warming and ozone depletion, and promote a healthier and cleaner environment.

ARAMARK is also using the Ionator EXP, produced by Activeion, a cleaning system that transforms tap water into slightly electrically charged tap water. The charged water passes through an ion exchange membrane, where the ionized water is separated into an oxygenated mixture of positively and negatively electrically charged nano-bubbles. The ionized water helps break apart and lift dirt from any surface. The slight electrical field carries to the surface where bacteria live and can kill more than 99.9% of harmful germs.

Sustainable Food Program
Dining Services has partnered with USM to build a three season food producing greenhouse on the patio of the Brooks Student Center on the Gorham campus. Through small crops of herbs and vegetables, we hope to educate students about where their food comes from and why eating local has value. 

During its first two years in operation the greenhouse provided tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, squash, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, radishes, swiss chard, and nasturtiums to be used in the Residential Restaurant and catering. All of our seeds are cultivated locally and we are working to grow more regional-specific varieties and utilize organic growing methods. For more information about the Brooks Student Center greenhouse click here to visit the USM Dining Services Sustainability Blog. If you would like to be involved with this project please contact Dining Services at dining@usm.maine.edu.

A training program is in development for managers and staff to build awareness and understanding.  If you would like to be a student intern and work with the dining sustainability program please contact Dining Services at dining@usm.maine.edu.


We are here to make your dining experience excellent. We are here to help you in anyway we can, just ask!

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Some of the Local Businesses
USM Dining Supports: