Recycling & Waste Reduction | Conservation | Preservation | Foods & Purchasing | Media

We Compost.

Composting began on Monday, April 30th 2012 in the six resident dining locations and the Norris Center at Northwestern University. This initiative is the latest in our effort to reduce the amount of waste we send to the landfill. Composting provides a more environmentally friendly use for our food waste that cannot be donated, like preparation scraps and plate leftovers, as well as our paper waste, like napkins and paper cups. Waste collected and then delivered to a composting facility in the Chicago area. The facility provides ideal conditions for the waste to rapidly biodegrade and the compost is ready 90 days after it arrives. The compost is then sent out to farms, where it is added to the soil. Click here to view what can and cannot be composted at Northwestern University. Be sure to read our blog posts on composting and other sustainability initiatives.


Making Sustainability a Priority

Sustainability is a priority for us at NUCuisine and we continue to develop a more sustainable dining program.

Recycling & Waste Reduction

Our sustainability efforts also include steps to reduce waste, recycle and protect the environment.

  • We work with Campus Kitchens to donate unused portions of food for those facing food adversity in the Evanston area.
  • All resident and retail dining locations recycle their cooking oil through Mahoney, a company that picks up the oil and recycles it to make animal feed. We have also given cooking oil to the Idea Waste Vegetable Oil Team at Northwestern University to do research on bio diesel oil.
  • In spring quarter 2008, we started using biodegradable plastic bags in the c-stores and retail locations for customers that needed a bag for carry out items.
  • Filtered water stations have been installed in all six resident dining locations. Students can now bring in their reusable bottle and fill it up with filtered water. By reusing bottles, students are helping cut back on the 22 billion water bottles that end up in landfills or incinerators each year and they are preventing greenhouse gas emissions associated with transporting bottled water.
  • A recycling program is in place. We recycle glass and plastic bottles, newspapers, #10 cans, cardboard boxes, office paper, cooking oil and unused portions of food.
  • We encourage students to use reusable containers through our Reusable Mug and Bottle Policy which offers a discount on soda or coffee. Reusable Mug Policy – Use a reusable mug for a brewed coffee or specialty coffee refill and get $0.25 off. Available at Lisa’s Cafe, Crowe Cafe, Tech Express and Plaza Cafe. Reusable Bottle Policy – Use a reusable bottle for a fountain soda refill and get $0.25 off. Available at Lisa’s Cafe, Tech Express and Willie’s Food Court. Click here to learn more about NU Recycling.

Energy and Water Conservation

  • We use the Ecolab Apex warewashing system which helps reduce consumption of natural resources and plastic packaging. The Apex system not only features non-caustic, low-phosphorus* chemistry, but also operates our dish machines more efficiently—often by 10% or higher. This operational efficiency translates into a significant savings of water and energy.
  • We are tray-free at Elder, Foster Walker, Sargent, 1835 Hinman and Willard Dining Hall and encourage tray-free dining at Allison Dining Hall. By going tray-free we use less energy and water to wash each tray. It takes about ¼ gallon of water to wash just one tray. Research also shows that you are tray-free the amount of food waste decreases by one ounce per plate. The average person throws 163 pounds of food away each year.
  • A pulper was installed in Elder Dining Location. This pulper is designed to reduce waste volume by up to 80%, conserving both water and energy.
  • In the summer of 2011, our resident dining units were converted from CO2 cylinder tanks to CO2 Bulk fill tanks. This is a more efficient and eco friendly delivery of CO2 to supply our soda fountain machines. With having bulk tanks this decreases the amount of deliveries that Air Gas has to make to our units. Thus decreasing fuel consumption, emissions, and costs. With the installation of the bulk tanks safety systems were also installed to monitor any potential leaks of CO2 into the air and a warning device notifies us should this occur.

Ecosystem Preservation

  • Stewardship of ocean resources and supporting sustainable aquaculture is critical for long-term viability of our seafood supply. NUCuisine is dedicated to ensuring that all of the seafood we serve is caught or raised sustainably. Our purchasing standards for fish influence our environmental footprint and send important market signals to manufacturers about the importance of sustainability.
  • We do not use any endangered fish or any type of endangered seafood.
  • Our locations have switched to environmentally friendly dish soaps and cleaning sanitizer.

Sustainable Foods

  • We grow a variety of produce at our NUCuisine Farm which is located in Osseo, Wisconsin.  We use the local and organic produce that is grown on our farm to make meals in the resident dining locations and for the salad bar. The following produce that is marked with the NUCuisine Farm logo will be in the dining halls this fall; Green Beans, Cabbage, Sweet Corn, Cabbage, Bell Peppers, Red Potatoes and Zucchini. Curious to see what the NUCuisine farm looks like? Click on the video below to see a few photos of our farm.

The nuCuisine Farm


  • NUCuisine is committed to supporting sustainable food purchasing and use of locally grown foods. We purchase products from many local producers in Chicagoland such as Tags Bakery in Evanston and Treasure Ocean in Chicago. We also purchase organic and natural products for purchase in our retail locations such as Stonyfield Farm smoothies and yogurt, Amy’s Kitchen Natural and Organic frozen meals, and Kashi cereal just to name a few.
  • We use Seattle’s Best Fair trade organic coffee in all resident dining and retail locations on campus.
  • The milk served in the resident dining locations is rBGH & BGH free and purchased locally from Muller-Pinehurst Dairy in Rockford.
  • NUCuisine offers a weekly sustainable and/or local menu in the dining halls. Each item has a sign that explains why an item is sustainable or local.
  • NUCuisine is also dedicated to helping students reduce their carbon footprints through providing a wide range of vegetarian and vegan options at every meal. Our efforts were recognized in 2007 and 2010 when Northwestern was named Peta2’s Most Vegetarian Friendly College.
  • nucuisine-farmAll of our shelled eggs served in the resident and retail dining locations are CERTIFIED HUMANE cage-free eggs.
  • We also host NUCuisine Fresh Markets throughout the year. These markets offer fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, flowers and produce grown on the NUCuisine Farm available for customers to purchase.
  • The resident dining halls take part in MeatLESS Monday, while still providing meat options, Monday’s feature a wider variety of meatless options as an ongoing program. Watch the video below to see why you should participate in MeatLESS Monday.

Sustainable Purchasing

  • We only use natural napkins which are made of 100% recycled material and a Bleach free process.
  • Starbucks coffee cups are made of 10% post consumer recycled fiber.
  • Jamba Juice switched from Styrofoam cups to paper cups.
  • We sell Ice Mountain Water, which has decreased the amount of raw materials used in their bottling process and all of their bottles are 100% recyclable.
  • We sell Dasani and Odwalla beverages that use PlantBottle packaging and are 100% recyclable. The Dasani Plantbottle is made from up to 30% plant based materials that replaces some of the nonrenewable petroleum or fossil-based resources used in conventional PET plastic. The Odwalla Plantbottle is made from up to 100% plant based HPDE plastic, sourced from sugarcane that is grown on abundant, arable land, resulting in no deforestation and less environmental damage.
  • Willie’s Food Court has eliminated the black foam eat-in plate and Styrofoam soup bowls. We now use more sustainable paper boats, potato-ware plates and eco-friendly soup bowls that are made from recycled paper with a corn starch based lining on the inside.
  • All resident and retail locations have switched from styrofoam to go cups to more sustaplanting-treesinable paper to go cups.
  • Our locations have switched to environmentally friendly dish soaps and cleaning sanitizer.
  • We use Sleeve a Message Coffee Sleeves that are made from 90% post-consumer recycled material and printed with only 100% recyclable water-based inks. Our sustainable Sleeve Program defines our commitment to operate under environmentally friendly conditions. We plant trees to offset the carbon footprint of our coffee sleeves. For every 7,000 sleeves used, we plant a tree in a distressed US community. This picture was taken while they were planting the trees.




Sustainability at NUCuisine

Sustainability @ Northwestern

Sustainability Newsletter

If you would like to receive the sustainability newsletter by email, please submit your email address to


What You Can Do. 

To reduce our environmental impact, we need your help. Make use of the recycling bins at our dining and retail locations and take advantage of our reusable mug and cup discounts. Only take as much food as you think you will eat to reduce waste.


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