Eco-friendly on the menu

Age-old dining customs embraced eco-friendly alternatives at the 2014 Environmental Awards held recently at Cambridge

Steeped in history and tradition, catering for the High Table and beyond at the University of Cambridge Colleges has embraced the 21st century by adopting a range of eco-friendly practices which were  celebrated in this year’s Environmental Awards.

Now in their 4th year, the University of Cambridge Catering Managers’ Committee (CMC) Environmental Awards help to promote environmental and ethical awareness across the catering departments, encouraging more sustainable activities. This forward-thinking approach is a far cry from the ancient dining traditions of the Colleges and the new changes are being embraced across College communities with student groups, tutors, Fellows and staff giving their support.

The winners were:

Gold Medal Winners
Christ’s College, Clare College, King’s College, Sidney Sussex and Trinity Hall

Silver Medal Winners
Girton, Madingley Hall, Newnham, Peterhouse, Robinson, Trinity and University Centre

Bronze Medal Winners
Darwin, St John’s and Selwyn

“The eco-friendly improvements being adopted by our catering teams permeate through the heart of College life as our customs of dining together for students, staff and Fellows form an integral part of each day. Our special Awards Ceremony at Trinity Hall gave us the opportunity to celebrate key areas of achievement for 2014,” said Kevin Keohane, Chairman of the CMC Environmental Committee and Catering Manager of Christ’s College.

The awards were judged by Bev Sedley from Cambridge Carbon Footprint and Ann Mitchell from Transition Cambridge who said: “Our food footprints make up around a quarter of our personal carbon footprints and we all need to change our approach to buying and sourcing food to help in the battle against climate change.  Many University of Cambridge Colleges have taken this on board and are doing their best to reduce their ‘food footprints’.

‘What is particularly encouraging is that colleges learn from each other’s best practice, so that environmental standards are improving year on year.  We congratulate the chefs and catering managers who are working hard to achieve these high standards.”

Eco-friendly achievements for 2014 have included:

– Christ’s College and King’s College have introduced ‘low carbon menus’, helping people to make more environmentally sound choices.

– All colleges in the survey now offer regular vegan dishes, over half of them on a daily basis. Eating meat less often leads to a lower food footprint.

– Wide-spread local and seasonal food sourcing – for example, Trinity Hall attends local food fairs to meet new suppliers, links up with local food bloggers to keep up to date with emerging foods and products and has introduced seasonal menus, as have several other colleges.

– A wider range of practices on how to avoid food waste. Nationally around one third of edible food is wasted which means wasted resources as well as leading to more carbon emissions in disposing of the wasted food.

– More Colleges are explaining their environmental and ethical policies publicly – for example, St John’s has a comprehensive environmental policy and Robinson College has details on their website.

– Many other carbon-reducing measures have been introduced by individual colleges – for example, Sidney Sussex has installed mains water dispensers to discourage the use of bottled water and Clare College and University Centre have introduced a reusable mug scheme.

The Awards Ceremony also gave the opportunity for local food and drinks suppliers to showcase their produce, including beers from Milton Brewery, “Cambridge Gin” from The Cambridge Distillery, “Three Squirrels” sparkling wine from Bishop’s Stortford supplied by Cambridge Wine Merchants, delicious organic breads from Cobs Organic Bakery located in Central Cambridge and a selection of artisan cheeses from Cheese + based in Papworth Everard, including two new cheeses inspired by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

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