Dining Services

Sustainable Dining

Dining Services scores an A on the 2010 College Sustainability Report Card.

The College Sustainability report card is designed to identify colleges and universities that are leaders in sustainable practices and initiatives.  Amherst College Dining Services is very proud of its work in the area of sustainability and is committed to moving forward with these practices in the future. 


Recycling bins for paper and bottles & cans are located in the Campus Center cafe and other areas within the Campus Center.

In addition, recycling bins for mixed paper are located in the dining room of Valentine Hall for Dining Services guests.


Starting in the Fall of 2009, Amherst College implemented post-consumer food waste composting in Valentine Dining Services.  Approximately 84 tons of food waste is being diverted per year.  Each year, by sending this organic material to a local farmer to be converted to compost instead of sending it to the landfill, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking 2 cars off the road for an entire year.

Bottled Water:

As part of the College’s ongoing commitment to waste reduction and environmental sustainability, Amherst College Dining Services has been significantly reducing its use of bottled water over the past few years and the environmental impacts thereof.  As the final step in that process, Amherst is eliminating the use of bottled water in the Student Dining Hall and Catering operations.

Through these waste reduction efforts, Dining Services has eliminated the use of approximately 20,000 plastic bottles each year.  Doing so will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of not burning 102 gallons of gasoline per year.

Did you know?

  • Ironically, it takes substantially more than one gallon of water to produce and distribute one gallon of bottled water. Millions of gallons of water are used in the plastic-making process, and for each gallon that goes into the bottles, two additional gallons are used in the purification process.
  • The  entire process of manufacturing plastic bottles and transporting them to stores requires nearly 2,000 times the energy of supplying tap water.   (Pacific Institute 2009)
  • The entire energy costs of the life cycle of a bottle of water is equivalent, on average, to filling up a quarter of each bottle with oil.  (Pacific Institute)

Recycling behind the scenes:

The preparation of meals on an institutional scale brings with it a significant amount of waste.  Dining Services makes every effort to recycle or otherwise minimize waste generated by its operations.

The following items are recycled via the Amherst College Recycling Program:

  • Glass bottles & jars, steel cans, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles & jugs are recycled.
  • Cardboard boxes are baled and recycled.
  • Office paper, including leftover menus.

In addition, Dining Services takes steps to manage its unique wastes:

  • Leftover unserved meals are donated to a variety of local shelters and charitable organizations.
  • Grease is sent to a local rendering company to be processed.
  • Used coffee grounds are made available to employees for use in their home gardens.
  • Plastic shrink wrap is sent to our vendor for recycling.

In an effort to get statistical information, we have been working with The Amherst Green Project (a student group) to bring awareness and collect data about post consumer waste in the Dining Hall.

  • We have identified that post consumer waste equates to approximately 13% of food served per day in the Dining Hall.
  • In a recent exercise, the Dining Hall collected 319 lbs. of edible food waste during one dinner meal.  This could feed 145 people in Sub-Saharan Africa for a day (US Department of Agriculture Economic Research).

Buying Recycled:

In order to complete the recycling process, Dining Services uses a variety of recycled products in our facilities.

  • Recycled paper is used in our copiers, fax machines and printers.
  • Brochures, flyers and other publications are printed on recycled paper whenever possible.
  • Most of our disposable ware (cutlery, hot cups, plates, to-go containers, etc.) is biodegradable and compostable.

Please read about Amherst College Physical Plant's recyling program.

Bottle and Can Recycling
Newspaper Recycling Keefe