Informational graphic on Ball State Dining's efforts to donate food, buy local produce, save energy, replace light bulbs, promote reusable drink containers.

(Photo illustration by Beth Brooks)

Here’s something to chew on: Ball State Dining pursues sustainability on fronts ranging from power savings to composting to recycling. Here are a few ways its efforts cut costs, reduce waste, keep food fresh and feed the hungry.

Dinner in the Dark

This energy-conservation awareness event takes place twice a year in the Buff in LaFollette Square and the Retreat in Noyer Centre. Lighting is reduced to safety lighting, and LED candles are provided. The spring event takes on a competitive air, as it coincides with the Residence Hall Energy Challenge. Each semester’s event carries a theme, such as the fall semester’s Eco Tricks and Treats, which was four days before Halloween.

Reusable container program

The initiative at 11 Ball State Dining locations sells reusable containers for cold and hot beverages. It reduces waste and is a money saver. Customers with the reusable containers pay 80 cents for both 16-ounce fountain drinks (normally $1.35) and 16-ounce self-serve coffee (normally $1.70). Beginning with 32-ounce tumblers and 16-ounce mugs, the program now sells reusable water bottles, tumblers with straws, travel mugs and ceramic mugs.

LED light bulbs

Dining began converting all its lighting to LED in summer 2014, an energy-saving project expected to be completed in the next two to three years. Energy savings per lamp averages about 50 percent. For example, older fluorescent tube bulbs are being replaced by light-emitting diode bulbs with more than three times the life expectancy. All told, Dining has replaced or converted more than 1,800 fixtures.

Two students with the organization Partnership for Student Sustainable Advancement sitting at a table in a Ball State dining hall pass out information to another student.

Outside the Buff in mid-February, junior Casey Malue (from left) and freshman Sam Buchanan pass out literature to fellow students about the organization Partnership for Student Sustainable Advancement (PSSA), which works with Ball State Dining on Dinner in the Dark. (Photo by Don Rogers)

Food for thought

Dining uses a round-the-clock, automatic temperature monitoring system for its cold-storage equipment. The system has helped reduce spoilage-related food loss to near zero by identifying potential equipment maintenance and failure issues and saves money by reducing maintenance calls and equipment failures.

Coffee grounds are set aside for composting. A spring 2017 pilot program will begin composting food waste set aside during preparation rather than being thrown away.

Through most the fall semester, Ball State has donated 6,960 pounds of food to places such as Muncie Mission, A Better Way and Harvest Soup Kitchen.