Clarion Group Announces Emerging Trends of “Green” Healthy Dining and Sustainability Credentials in Colleges

Kingston, NH, August 05, 2010 --( With the start of the fall semester nearing, college dining service directors need to look to “greening” their healthy dining and sustainability credentials, says Angela Phelan, senior vice president and chief environmental advocate of Clarion Group, a consulting firm that specializes in campus and corporate dining and facilities services.

“Students, far more than other groups, are keenly aware of environmental issues and expect their college – especially including the dining services – to be at the leading edge of sustainability and wellness trends,” Phelan says.

“Both independently-managed and contractor-operated campus dining services generally reflect the most popular environmental trend: fresh, organic and locally-sourced foods and waste reduction,” she notes. “But students, as well as faculty members and administrators, will expect more this academic year.”

In the past, many dining services provided organic and/or vegetarian foods in a separate, ghetto-like section of the dining facility’s servery, saving the best locations for the more popular pizza, sub sandwiches, burgers and the like. Today, however, students expect environmentally-favorable foods and features to be center stage, including pizzas with whole-grain crusts, vegetarian subs and burgers made from hormone-free beef, as wells as other healthy and meat-free options.

One of the most successful ways to say “fresh,” “wholesome” and “nutritious” to diners is the “action station,” according to Phelan. Here, a chef prepares the diner’s meal to order on a countertop cooking unit on the serving line, adding or omitting ingredients to the customer’s order. To-order cooking also is cost-effective, she adds. Ingredients are cooked only when the customer orders a dish. The only leftovers are raw ingredients that, if properly kept at a safe temperature (40 to 35 degrees F.), will remain fresh and safe for reuse in another, different dish at the next meal or next day. Food cost is significantly lower than for food prepared in large batches, that may not be served right away, creating leftovers of minimal or no value.

“Students, and many other people, are aware of the nutrition and environmental values of locally-sourced foods and expect to see them at the dining center,” she says. “Buying from local farmers may take more effort than calling a wholesale distributor, but the end product, delivered within a day or just a few days, after being harvested, is worth the effort.”

Most states now have programs to support institutional purchasing from local farms, she added, making it easier and more efficient than traveling the countryside to search out farmer-suppliers, she adds. Many distributors now also offer local farm products as part of their line.

The other half of an environmentally friendly dining service, a sustainable operation, requires more thought and effort and includes waste reduction (helped by to-order cooking) and the conservation of water, electrical and other utilities.

Waste reduction begins with more careful menu and order planning to reduce over-production and a plan to properly dispose of the waste that does occur. Food waste can be composted and used to enrich a campus vegetable garden, Phelan suggests. Paper products made from recycled materials and plastics utensils from corn or soy-based materials that degrade more quickly than conventional plastics in a landfill can be used.

Even better, she adds, is to reduce or eliminate disposable tableware, replacing it with real china, glasses and stainless steel knives, forks and spoons.

Reducing water and utility consumption takes a two-pronged approach: Turning off equipment, like ventilation systems, ovens and electrical appliances when not in use is one important approach that costs nothing and saves a lot. The second prong is the replacement of old, inefficient equipment with new units, such as dishwashing machines that use less water and cooking equipment that requires less power.

A good resource for the improvement of a dining service’s sustainability is the Green Restaurant Association, whose website,, offers a comprehensive listing of steps any restaurant or on-site dining service operator can take to improve its environmental standards.

“The GRA also offers a Green Restaurant Certification program, similar to LEED certification for buildings,” Phelan says. “There’s no better way to show the campus community that you are doing your bit for the planet than to gain this certification.”


About Clarion Group: Since 1995, Clarion Group has helped companies, colleges, schools and institutions to improve the value and reduce the cost of their in-house employee or student dining services, conference and catering services and facilities support services, such as conference and event management, audio/visual services and lodging.

For information, contact:
Tom Mac Dermott, FCSI, President
Clarion Group
PO Box 158, Kingston, NH 03848-0158
Clarion Group
Tom Mac Dermott