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Food & Living Initiatives

Sustainable Food Program 

R&DE believes the dining halls are living laboratories and through extensive collaborations with Stanford faculty has partnered on multiple research and teaching programs. Food system research, education, and a system-based approach helps to influence the 200 million meals Stanford University’s current students will consume over their lifetime to more sustainable choices.

Education & Research

Raising awareness about sustainability is key to changing behavior. Education efforts include the Know Your Food program featuring discussions, book talks, and cooking classes with food experts across the food system. R&DE Stanford Dining offers hands-on cooking classes focused on sustainability and nutrition in the Teaching Kitchen @ Stanford, and has developed a class with the Stanford School of Medicine teaching medical school students how to cook.

Sustainable Food Purchasing

R&DE Stanford Dining has developed a set of purchasing guidelines and preferences called the Sustainable Food Ethos to establish a practical framework and an ongoing process to guide food purchasing decisions. These guidelines take into account the best interest of our environment, the social and economic systems on which our food depends, and the health of those to whom we serve food. R&DE seeks to have a thoughtful food purchasing policy that prioritizes food that is healthy, fair, humane, and sustainable. An example of this is the direct-purchasing model with Taku River Reds, a family-owned salmon fishery in Juneau, Alaska. Stanford Dining commits to purchasing approximately 27,000 pounds of salmon from them annually and pays early, allowing them to plan their business in an economically-viable manner.

Local Farm Partners

R&DE Stanford Dining purchased approximately 67,000 pounds of organic produce directly from a local farm, Pie Ranch, in 2016. This direct institutional CSA model relationship has been in existence for three years and was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle. For the past two years, R&DE Stanford Dining has had a direct relationship with Coke Farm, a local, organic farm and farm hub that sources from about 50 small and medium-sized local farms. R&DE also buys approximately 14,000 pounds of produce from the O’Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm annually for a farm-to-campus program.

R&DE also co-founded and jointly leads the Bay Area Sustainable Sourcing Group in collaboration with Google Food to bring together regional, large food buyers and food system experts from universities and the dining departments a tech companies to elevate the thought leadership on sustainability and to leverage the group’s purchasing power to improve the regional food system.

Waste Reduction

R&DE Stanford Dining reduces waste, composts, donates food, and recycles whenever possible with a goal of zero waste in the dining halls and cafes. As part of R&DE Stanford Dining’s “Love Food Hate Waste” program, all dining halls have a food waste monitoring system. Stanford Dining is committed to reducing food waste throughout all parts of the food system. An example of this is through the “Deliciously Imperfect” program. R&DE has been working with 40 small and medium sized, local, organic farms to source “ugly produce” that is deemed too large, small, misshapen, miscolored, or scarred and unsellable produce that would otherwise be left in the fields or discarded, giving local, small and medium sized organic farms an additional source of income. R&DE also regularly donates food to local non-profits.

Organic Teaching Gardens

R&DE Stanford Dining has 10 organic teaching gardens. Stanford Dining also has a greenhouse in Arrillaga Family Dining Commons that grows microgreens and hydroponic towers in Florence Moore Dining.  The R&DE Stanford Dining organic teaching gardens offer multiple work days a week in addition to workshops that teach students how to grow their own produce. In addition, the Seed Library run by R&DE Stanford Dining gives students and the Stanford community free seeds each month that they can plant at home or in the gardens by their residences. 

Sustainable Living Program

The Sustainable Living Program is committed to influencing generations of students to lead sustainable lifestyles, not only on campus but in their future communities. R&DE Student Housing does this by providing infrastructure that encourages sustainable living. 

The R&DE Sustainable Living Program collaborates with students and staff to foster behavior change, reduce energy and water consumption, and reduce waste production in campus residences. 


Water Conservation

R&DE Student Housing led an irrigation retrofit project in 2015 that included replacing all irrigation equipment, over 20,000 pieces, across its 57 acres of landscape with more efficient models; this is expected to save 33 million gallons of water per year, a 46% reduction in R&DE’s irrigation water use. R&DE continually strives to advance conservation efforts, and tested the lowest-flow showerhead on the market, making Stanford the first university to do so. 

Waste Reduction

R&DE Student Housing is expanding its zero waste program across all areas of R&DE. By the end of  2017, all residences will be outfitted with multi-stream collection bins and over the next three years all of R&DE facilities will be outfitted for zero-waste.

Green Cleaning

After a successful 2015 pilot in the Delta Delta Delta sorority house, R&DE plans to expand its green cleaning system to all houses.  The Tersano cleaning system uses an ozone-infused water solution that is just as powerful as traditional cleaners, without any chemicals. In addition to reducing packaging, the ozone solution is much safer for custodian and occupant health and reduces the impact of chemicals on the environment.  

Sustainable Move Out

The annual Give & Go program aims to reduce waste sent to landfill as students move out at the end of the academic year and partners with regional organizations to donate gently used items to communities in need.  Each year the program diverts approximately 50 tons of materials from the landfill.