UM Restaurants Going Green

Rebel Market, Catering first in state to achieve GRA certification; Lenoir Dining also in process

UM students sample menu in the Rebel Market restaurant on campus.Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

UM students sample the offerings in the Rebel Market restaurant on campus. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A restaurant and a catering service at the University of Mississippi are the only Certified Green restaurants in the state of Mississippi.

Catering at UM and Rebel Market, both managed by Aramark, began the process last March and achieved Level 1 Certification from the Green Restaurant Association in mid-June.

“It has been a pleasure working together to help the University of Mississippi to this point,” said Kim Stama, GRA restaurant sustainability consultant. “Rebel Market completed 42 steps and 119.5 GreenPoints. Catering at the University of Mississippi completed 28 steps and 81.61 GreenPoints.”

An Aramark official described the criteria for certification.

“The Green Restaurant Association measures levels in environmental categories such as disposables, energy conservation, furnishing and building design, food and menu items, chemicals and pollution, waste and water conservation,” said Valerie Schultz, residential food service director for Aramark.

“The in-depth process consisted of communication with Ole Miss Dining vendors and an examination of menu options. Additionally, GRA conducted a comprehensive walkthrough of the building to determine water flow, automatic lighting and various types of light bulbs in use, energy efficiencies of all equipment, proximity to various modes of transportation and reusable takeout options.

“The biggest change will be the increase of vegetarian and vegan options on the menus at the Rebel Market,” Schultz said. “The facilities will also undergo annual inspections to renew GRA certification and conduct education training to its staff.

“We will continue to research and implement various changes to move to a 2 Star Certified Green Restaurant,” she said. “Additionally, we will move toward reducing our chemical footprint by implementing eco-friendly cleaning products. Our goal is to bring awareness of our sustainability efforts to our customers and the Oxford-University community.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management’s Lenoir Dining restaurant has received funding from the UM Green Fund to help it also gain GRA certification.

The project, which is a collaboration between the department, the Green Fund, Facilities Management and the Office of Sustainability, involves the installation of new toilets, light fixtures, fans and other items that are energy efficient and aid in water conservation. Water conservation, composting and recycling also will be implemented at the facility.

“We have Dr. James Taylor, associate professor in NHM, to thank for this achievement,” said David Holben, chair and professor of nutrition and hospitality management. “He helped with the process of getting this funding from the Green Fund.”

Lenoir Dining is a nonprofit, educational operation and offers UM students hands-on experiences in all facets of restaurant operations. Students rotate to various positions within the operation such as server, cook and manager. The restaurant is open in fall, spring and summer sessions, offering weekly dining options and using diverse, international recipes.

The UM Green Fund provides funding for the implementation of sustainable projects, programs and policies on the UM campus. Past projects include the installation of hydration stations and the establishment of the UM composting program. Any UM student, or faculty or staff member can propose a project.

“After the Green Fund Committee votes to fund a project, Office of Sustainability staff act as liaisons to facilitate the implementation of this project, so we are excited to be involved throughout the process,” said Lindsey Abernathy, project manager in the Office of Sustainability and chair of the UM Green Fund Committee.

As part of the certification-seeking process, the Office of Sustainability is also expanding its composting program to include Lenoir Dining.

“This will help reduce Lenoir Dining’s landfill waste and will provide yet another educational opportunity to the students who are collecting the compostable materials in the kitchen,” Abernathy said. “Many nutrition and hospitality management students work in Lenoir Dining as part of their required course work. Being trained in a facility that is conscious of sustainable practices and why they are important will produce graduates who can take this knowledge and firsthand experience to their new workplaces and implement it there.”