About the "Big Red Goes Green" blog

Welcome to the unofficial Cornell University Dining and Retail Services blog! This blog will give you an inside look on how the Big Red is going green and how Cornell Dining is achieving its goals towards sustainability.

To make this more of a student-to-student experience, the Big Red Goes Green (BRGG) is run by the two student sustainability coordinators of Cornell Dining. Thus, we are here to update you on our projects and are interested in hearing your feedback, concerns, and suggestions. If you have any questions, please leave comments or email me at jle64@cornell.edu (I like getting mail!).

Also BRGG features the efforts of student organizations who have helped increase sustainability awareness. We support them in what they are doing and appreciate their help in promoting our "green" efforts.

- Jaimee Estreller (Student Sustainability Coordinator 1 of 2)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Bigger, Redder, Greener Update

Hello All,

It's been quite a while since I last updated, I apologize. I am now a senior student and, like most of my classmates, am trying to fight this disease called "senioritis". But, I am back in the swing of things and ready to update you on all the glorious, sustainable things that we at Cornell Dining have all been working on since last March.

Here we go:

Slope Day 2009
was quite a success as we aimed to make it a "zero-waste" event as possible. All products on the Slope were made from either compostable or recyclable materials. Most notable were the PLA (corn) beer cups and flatware as well as the "25% less plastic" water bottles that were distributed to the students. The event eventually got rained out, but we were able to divert around 600 pounds of compost from the landfill. Good day indeed!

Post-consumer composting
is available at the following units:

  • The Ivy Room in Willard Straight Hall (near the dish return belt)
  • Martha's Cafe in Martha Rensselaer Hall
  • Mattin's Cafe in Duffield Hall
  • Moosewood at Anabel Taylor in Anabel Taylor Hall
  • Synapsis Cafe in Weill Hall
  • Trillium in Kennedy Hall
We are currently working with the Cornell Dining Purchasing and Marketing departments to improve the composting efforts and awareness at the Dining units. Two of the main challenges that we have faced with successful composting are the inconsistent signage and post-consumer products (i.e. non-compostable, compostable, recyclable, etc) that are available throughout the units. We will continue our composting education efforts and hopefully roll out improved signage and products by next semester.

Please refer to the other blog post on what is and what is not compostable.

Fil Eden, the other student sustainability coordinator, has been gracious enough to manage this project as my focus has shifted onto the next project that I will now introduce....

Energy reduction is the overall goal of the energy audit project that I am working on this semester. I shall be determining how Dining can reduce its energy consumption at its various units. The pilot audit shall begin at Risley. More information shall arise as I get deeper into the project. In addition, Paula Amols, Cornell Dining Project Manager, has been spearheading other efforts since last year such as utlity metering on West Campus and the switching of incandescent lightbulbs to CFLs. She has been a great resource so far in helping me move forward with this project. Overall, it's a great learning experience on my end and I hope to figure out how Dining can feasibly reduce its energy consumption at the units

Local food is an increasing focus of the sustainability efforts at Cornell Dining. About 20% of the produce purchased by Cornell Dining is local, which is defined as within 100 miles or from New York State. As noted in the article, Home Grown: Cornell Dining Serves Up Locally Grown CALS Produce, "Cornell chefs are now using produce grown at Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station farms near campus as part of the Farms-to-Dining Initiative--corn, potatoes, squash and ornamental gourds are purchased directly from CALS’ farms."

Also, this past September, Cornell Dining hosted a "Farm to You" Harvest Dinner, which featured a menu made from local foods (sausages, cheeses, vegan succotash, sweet corn, and lima beans to name a few) and talks by local food experts such as Suvir Saran, a notable chef who raises heritage livestock breeds on a small farm for milk, meat, and fiber.

That is all for now, but I shall keep you updated on some upcoming promotions such as the "Reusable Mug Program" that shall be rolling out soon. Stay tuned.

Of course, as the Student Sustainability Coordinator, I welcome any feedback regarding our efforts. I will make note of any comment and bring it up during my weekly meeting with the team.

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Stay green,



Tuesday, March 24, 2009

RPCC goes "trayless" for Earth Day!

Hello All,

For all you dining folks on North Campus, Cornell Dining will go "trayless" at Robert Purcell Community Center for one day on April 22. The special "trayless" event celebrates Earth Day 2009 by removing trays to reduce food and water waste at one of the busiest "all you care to eat" dining halls on campus.

As of now, the dining halls that are "trayless" at Cornell are Risley Dining Hall, Carl Becker House, Hans Bethe House, William Keeton House, Flora Rose House and Okenshields (for dinner only).

The decision to go "trayless" was based on the following benefits:

1. Water and chemical savings from the reduction of water usage and the reduction of chemical solutions that would have been used or purchased to wash the trays.
2. Labor cost savings from the reduction of time needed to wash the trays
3. Reduction of food waste as people don't take as much food
4. Nutritional benefits as people only eat what they can carry in their hands
5. Decrease in breakage of glassware and plates

Not all the "all you care to eat" locations will transform into "trayless" locations because the facilities' dish belts may not be compatible with the removal of trays (i.e. RPCC and the tray stack). However, the Earth Day event will serve as both as a green event and a trial event to determine if RPCC can transform into a "trayless" location.

So, on April 22, 2009, visit RPCC to experience the "trayless" movement. If you cannot make it to RPCC, try dining without a tray at any other location. After the event, leave a comment on the blog or Facebook group to give us your feedback about your "trayless" experience at RPCC. Your voice matters!

Stay green,


p.s. Please remember to compost and recycle!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Martha's Cafe Composting and FAQ

Hello All,

On Monday, February 23, Martha's Cafe (MVR) started composting in the front and back-of house. If you are unfamiliar with what is compostable, have no fear! Just look at the examples on the board to figure out what to put in each compost, recycling, or "landfill" bin.

To clarify some concerns, here are some answers to frequently asked questions.

1. Are the toothpicks compostable?

The toothpick itself is compostable; however, the plastic "frilly" part of the toothpick is not compostable. To be pro-active, we highly recommend that you break off the "frilly" part of the toothpick and throw that part away. The rest of the toothpick can be composted.

2. I saw someone compost a FreshTake container, is that compostable?

All Cornell Dining FreshTake containers are in fact compostable. Although they may look like plastic, they are actually made from PLA, which stands for polylactic acid, or more simply made from corn. To make the process of sorting easier, all FreshTake stickers and salad dressing containers are also made out of PLA and can be composted all together.

To determine if an item is made from PLA, look at the bottom of the container for the word "PLAstic", which signifies that it is made from PLA and should be composted.

3. Are my utensils compostable?

As of now, the utensils at Cornell Dining and Retail outlets are not compostable and should be thrown away because they are made out of plastic. However, compostable utensils are found at Moosewood Cafe at Anabel Taylor and Mandibles Cafe in Mann Library, which are both locations that have composting facilities.

4. What happens if I throw non-compostable items in the compost bin?

Any contaminants in either the compost or recycling bin will result in "rejected" bags, which means that any plastic or metal found in any of the bins will cause the whole bag to be thrown away instead. Non-compostable and non-recyclable items should be thrown away. It is very important that you sort out your items properly so that each bag can be accepted.

We appreciate your cooperation with the composting program. Please remember to compost and recycle before throwing items in the "landfill"!

If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me through the comment box or email.

Stay green,



Sunday, February 8, 2009

The BRGG Composting 101 Education Campaign

Hello All,

Starting Monday, February 9, we will be starting our Composting 101 Education Campaign at Mattin's Cafe in Duffield Hall from 10:30 am to 1:00 PM. At our table, you'll be able to learn more about post-consumer composting and what exactly should be composted, recycled, or thrown away. Also, you'll get a cool "I composted today" sticker!

Here's a quick catch-up for you all:

What is composting?

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, composting is defined as a natural process that combines organic wastes (e.g., yard trimmings, food wastes, manures) to create a soil amendment that helps plants grow. With the aid of high temperatures, the materials are broken down to create the soil. Because food waste is a significant percentage of all waste in the United States, the action to compost is a sustainable step forward in reducing waste and in turn giving back to the environment.

Which Cornell Dining locations do post-consumer composting?

At Cornell Dining, we do back-of-house (in the kitchen) composting at all our Dining Hall (all-you can-eat) locations. We are currently moving towards post-consumer composting as well for the our retail locations.

Currently we are composting in the front-of-house at:

  • Ivy Room (Willard Straight Hall)
  • Mattin's Cafe (Duffield Hall)
  • Moosewood at Anabel Taylor (Anabel Taylor Hall)
  • Synapsis Cafe (Weill Hall)
  • Trillium Cafe (Kennedy Hall)
Coming soon
  • Martha's Cafe (Martha Van Rensselaer Hall)

What should be composted?

  • All food scraps
  • Napkins
  • Cartons
  • PLA containers and utensils
    • PLA stands for polylactic acid and is produced from corn
    • Most Cornell Dining locations have switched over to PLA containers for its "FreshTake" products
      • The PLA container is light brown (vs. the black plastic container) and can be completely composted (even the sticker is made from corn!)
  • Paper

What should be recycled?
  • Plastic bottles
  • Glass bottles
  • Aluminum cans

What should be thrown away into the trash?
  • Plastic material (i.e. straws, wrappers, utensils)
  • Metal
  • Anything that cannot be recycled or composted

Remember to compost and recycle at our composting locations!

Thanks to SNRC, the Sustainability Hub, and the Master Composters for helping us with our campaign!

Stay green,

Jaimee Estreller


Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Big Red Goes Green Has Resurrected!

Hello Folks,

My name is Jaimee Estreller '10 and I am one of the student sustainability coordinators for Cornell Dining along with Fil Eden '10. Basically, this is the unofficial spot where you can get all your Cornell Dining information. The purpose of this blog is to update you on our projects from a student-t0-student perspective (aka on a more informal level). My goal for this semester is to increase student awareness about sustainability and how Cornell Dining is achieving that with its new projects.

For me, the first step was to resurrect this blog. It's still a work in progress, so please bear the changes that may pop up from time to time. But, I'll be writing some interesting stuff--stay tuned!

Secondly, I created a Facebook group for students to join. Check it out and sport your Big Red Goes Green pride by joining today!

Now that the blog has been resurrected, I shall make sure to keep it alive. I'll be back with some updates soon.

Stay green,



Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Director!

Cornell Dining is pleased to announce Gail T. Finan, FMP as the new Director of Dining & Retail Services. Gail can be reached via email at gtf23@cornell.edu. Look for future posts from her at this blog site.


The unofficial web blog for Cornell University Dining & Retail Services