Dining to-go sites opening with extensive composting options


University dining halls, and five new to-go locations, are set to launch lunch and dinner services, seven days a week — with a continued commitment to composting and waste reduction.

Select dining halls opened Aug. 24, with service to resume at most dining halls and to-go locations by Aug. 27.

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All meals will be served in takeout containers, with limited seating available at many locations across campus. To reduce density, new outposts are also set to open at the South Quad Blue Cafe, Central Campus Recreation Building, Michigan Union, Michigan League, and Pierpont Commons.

“Our goal has always been to meet the dining needs of students and U-M community members, and do so in a safe, sustainable way,” said Steve Giardini, senior associate director of residential dining.

“While we’re saddened that our dining halls may not serve their normal social function, we’re confident that we’ve adapted to meet the needs of our students and public health and will continue to do so as information and guidance changes.”

MDining expects to serve about 95,000 meals per week across the university through residential dining halls and to-go outposts. Given the university’s adjustments in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, MDining anticipates a decrease in retail sales and catering offerings.

During the upcoming semester, MDining will deliver leftover meals to Michigan Medicine, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Ann Arbor, and Food Gatherers.

MDining will also offer extensive composting options and signage, having partnered with the Office of Campus Sustainability, Student Life, Waste Management Services, and Custodial and Grounds Services to offer compostable ware and increased compost bins in common areas and building lobbies across the Ann Arbor campus.

Most dining locations will offer fully compostable containers, though some to-go meals at outpost locations, as well as those offered to students in quarantined housing, will use non-compostable containers to ensure food quality.

MDining encourages diners to look for updated “Know Where to Throw” signs to ensure they take sustainable steps toward waste reduction.

“It’s important to all of us that we do not forget about broader environmental issues in the age of COVID-19,” Giardini said. “And we’re excited to assess the viability of making composting to-go.”

“We really hope to set a new standard for composting within higher education,” said Alex Bryan, sustainability programs manager at Student Life. “We looked at like-minded institutions when considering materials and developing signage and found that solutions were not readily available elsewhere. We hope that others remain cognizant of waste reduction, waste diversion, and composting efforts.”

MDining has long prioritized composting, both for those preparing meals and for customers. Customer composting is particularly challenging because non-compostable items are often mixed into the compostable waste stream. U-M’s compost vendor requires that at least 99 percent of waste delivered is compostable.

Student Life and the Office of Campus Sustainability previously implemented compost bins in all residence hall waste closets, enabling campus sustainability partners to continue composting programs this year, even as MDining’s distribution adapts.

Together, these efforts help U-M work toward its goal to reduce total waste by 40 percent by 2025. MDining has diverted 34 percent of its waste from landfills to help meet the cross-university goal.

Earlier this year, U-M was a top-ranked university in the 2020 RecycleMania competition, placing first in the large-campus division for zero waste. Participating universities aimed to achieve the highest diversion rate by recycling, composting and reusing items, across a subset of buildings, to reduce the amount sent to landfill.


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