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A Sustainable State

NC State has a long history of impacting the agricultural industry in North Carolina. As a land-grant university that has played a key role in revolutionizing the state’s farming practices, NC State and its alums continue to define, refine and influence our agricultural practices 125 years later.

NC State Dining is proud to be a contributing partner in the university’s overall sustainability goal to conserve energy, use resources wisely and reduce our carbon footprint. With over 40 campus locations, we’re taking a lead role in opening avenues for North Carolina-based growers, producers and manufacturers to help meet that need by providing fresh, healthy and local ingredients.

Sustainability Initiatives

Composting IconWe began a composting initiative at our dining halls in August 2010 and at One Earth in Talley Student Union in 2014. The initiative became a reality when an audit by Waste Reduction and Recycling found that 70% of waste generated by Fountain Dining Hall was compostable. In 2018, Talley Student Union collected 100.57 tons of compost to send to the onsite compost facility that helps complete the loop of the food eaten on campus. The composting initiative has helped NC State decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills.

Take out Program IconOur dining hall take-out program, Pack&Go, features a reusable and recyclable take out container that can be used in our dining halls in exchange for a meal credit. Since March 2009, this program has diverted more than 208,500 styrofoam to-go containers from the landfill.

Recycled Cooking Oil IconNC State Dining works with GreaseCycle to collect and upcycle oil waste (~9742.5 gallons in 2019). The organic waste is converted into biodiesel fuel and composting soil. Not only is the oil being put to good use, but it also is collected at no cost to us, saving thousands of dollars each year.

Trayless Dining IconWhile drought conditions in early 2008 prompted us to conserve water by removing trays from our three dining halls, we then decided to make the change permanent. With this change, we conserve an average of 51,000 gallons of water weekly. Food waste and energy usage are down, too. By going trayless, we’ve saved more than 21 million gallons of water. That’s enough to fill over 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools!

Recycled Cooking Oil IconThrough a partnership with the Office of Sustainability, NC State Dining began reducing plastic waste by eliminating single-use plastic bags at the Atrium Food Court and Markets on campus. Reusable bags are now available for purchase at these locations, diverting over 95,000 plastic bags from the landfill since implementation. NC State Dining has also contributed to the Sustainable Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) gold rating for the university’s overall sustainability performance.

We have implemented several waste reduction and recycling efforts throughout each of our dining locations, including:

  • Reusable dinnerware in the dining halls instead of disposables;
  • Cardboard and paper recycling at all locations;
  • Plastic bottle and aluminum can recycling in most locations;
  • HVAC upgrade at Fountain Dining Hall to improve energy efficiency;
  • Use of electronic media to reduce paper use; and
  • Operating the Cbord Food Management System, a sophisticated computerized food production system. It is designed to drastically reduce waste through “just in time” purchasing methods and eliminate food waste through overproduction.


Sustainability Partners

We have created several partnerships with student organizations and professors across
campus, including the NC State Sustainability Stewards and Zero Waste Wolves, to align
our sustainability goals and help us achieve them.

Through a partnership with the Office of Sustainability, NC State Dining began reducing
plastic waste by eliminating single-use plastic bags at the Atrium Food Court and Merkets
on campus. Reusable bags are now available for purchase at these locations, diverting
more than 294,000 plastic bags from the landfill each year.

The Culinary Horticulture Club at NC State is a student-led group focused on bringing together students and community members who have a deep interest in the history, sociology, science, and culinary attributes of horticultural crops. Dining partners with them to present several “Our Table” seminars to campus that provide a horticultural background and tasting of the featured crop.Visit the site

As our local connection to what is happening on the local food scene, Got to be NC helps us identify groups and companies that produce, manufacture, grow and package products in North Carolina. Got to be NC also connects our program with local partners interested in introducing NC products to campus.Visit the site

NC State’s Agroecology Education Farm provides hands-on education regarding sustainable agriculture to students, staff, faculty and the community.Visit the site

Supported by the university’s Sustainability Office, the NC State Stewards are sustainability student leaders promoting sustainable practices among their peers and the community. NC State Dining works with the Stewards to reduce plastic bag and cup use, by promoting our Bring Your Own Bag and One Less Cup campaigns.Visit the site

NC State Dining works with North Carolina Choices, a group that promotes local products, to feature pasture-raised pork sausage and ham at the dining halls.Visit the site

The NC 10% Campaign is a local initiative to encourage consumers to spend 10% of their food dollars on foods from North Carolina-based farmers and producers. NC State Dining utilizes them as a resource to connect us with food growers and producers in NC, including sourcing menu items for our annual All Carolinas and Farm Feast meals.Visit the site

The Recirculating Farms Club at NC State aims to promote recirculating farming technology, including aquaculture, hydroponics, and aquaponics. NC State Dining partners with the student organization to grow hydroponic lettuce for use in select dining locations across campus.Visit the site

US Foods is an excellent resource in identifying local food on a scale that can be used in our dining units across campus. They continue to work with North Carolina farmers and producers to increase the diversity and amount of local products they carry.Visit the site