Campus Eateries Recognized for Sustainability Efforts

Duke's Green Dining Awards highlight eateries that recycle, use local products

Fares Hanna, the owner of Twinnie's and Blue Express eateries on campus, poses next to a map on the wall that shows the North Carolina food items used in dishes at Blue Express. His eateries received this year's
Fares Hanna, the owner of Twinnie's and Blue Express eateries on campus, poses next to a map on the wall that shows the North Carolina food items used in dishes at Blue Express. His eateries received this year's "Most Improved" Green Dining Awards.

It isn't uncommon for Fares Hanna, the owner of Twinnie's and Blue Express eateries on campus, to spend time researching user-friendly, compostable to-go containers or rearranging his kitchens to accommodate reusable china and silverware.

Both locations were just crowned "Most Improved" in the Green Dining Awards, which highlights Duke eateries and their sustainable practices every year, since 2010.

Customers who visit Blue Express will see a map of North Carolina on the wall that pinpoints where more than 80 percent of their products come from. They get their bread from a Carrboro bakery and pork from Charlotte farmers. Both Twinnie's and Blue Express recycle plastics, down to gallon jugs for milk, as well as offer vegetarian and vegan dishes every day.   

"It's our job," Hanna said. "We're not doing it just to get an award. As long as we're doing our share to help the environment, as long as we're doing our share to fit into part of the Duke community, that's what makes us feel good about it."

Students for Sustainable Living, a small group of undergraduate and graduate students who help promote Sustainable Duke initiatives, runs the Green Dining Awards program. Campus eateries are scored in four categories: food attributes and origins, operations, waste and recycling, and outreach and education. A perfect score is 100 points. As part of the program, students meet with individual managers and owners of 24 campus eateries to discuss sustainability efforts and goals, then rate their sustainable practices on a scorecard.

Questions range from local and organic offerings to composting methods, said Casey Roe, Duke's sustainability outreach coordinator. Other details can include serving fair-trade coffee and using nontoxic cleaning products.

Aaron Newman, an electrical and computer engineering freshman who's involved in Students for Sustainable Living, interviewed Hanna and filled out the scorecards for Blue Express and Twinnie's.

"By recognizing the eateries that are making the most effort in incorporating sustainability into their services, we're not only encouraging those eateries to continue to keep improving, keep advancing, keep trying to find new and creative methods to make their food more sustainable," Newman said, "but they're really setting an example for some of the other eateries."

One of the "Best Overall" picks was the Nasher Museum Cafe. About 75 percent of its food offerings are local, the cafe staff composts and recycles, and signs on the eatery tables display messages of support for eating locally produced food.

"I'm hoping (the awards) will raise awareness, not only among the eateries, but among students and the faculty and staff so people can demand changes," said Julia Mote, a Duke graduate student who conducted the Nasher Museum Cafe interview. "I think people are a lot more conscious of their choices now."