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Food and Living

Cal Poly is essentially a small city with over 2,700 full time employees and 19,000 students- 7,500 of them living on campus. While providing services to this community, University Dining and Housing staff have made sustainability an integral part of doing business.

Cal Poly Dining and Catering

Composting and Recycling

Since 2009, Campus Dining has diverted food scraps from landfills through its composting program. On average, 230 tons of food scraps and coffee grounds are locally composted annually, resulting in nutrient-rich, valuable soil that can be used to grow delicious, healthy food. In addition Dining prioritizes recycling used cooking oil, uses biofuel in vehicles, donates uneaten food to local food banks, and annually on average they recycle over 193,000 pounds of cardboard, 400 large bins of aluminum, plastic, and glass.

Food Waste Reduction

To reduce the amount of waste, Campus Dining teamed up with Mr. Eco, an environmental rap superhero and Cal Poly student, to develop a video campaign to bring awareness to food waste on campus. The video, "Clean Plate Club", is played on large monitors and helps customers understand the value of reducing their waste. Additionally, informational campaigns about reducing food waste are promoted throughout the main dining operations.

ECO To Go Containers

In an effort to reduce the amount of packaging waste on campus, Campus Dining initiated a program to provide all freshman students living on campus with an eco-friendly to-go food container. Students use this container in place of disposable food containers to take meals to-go.

Plastic Bag Reduction

The bag ordinance in SLO County, effective October 1, banned one-time use plastic bags from certain retail spaces around the county. Businesses were instructed to change their bag policies and offer a more sustainable bag alternative - the Corporation operations had one in place already. Prior to the ordinance Campus Dining voluntarily switched out their plastic bags for vegetable based "bio bags" and reduced the number of places they are available. Where there used to be plastic bags available on counters at all times, very few dining operations have bio bags and the ones that do keep them behind the counter and are available upon request only. The University Store and Cal Poly Downtown offered thick, reusable plastic bags to customers for many years. These plastic bags are made of high density plastic content and were reusable. In efforts to provide a more sustainable product to customers, both stores will debut of new line of brown paper bags made of recycled paper content, which is available in two sizes. These bags are compostable and/or recyclable.

Student-Grown Organic Products

One of the best parts of attending or working at Cal Poly is being able to enjoy fresh food, grown and produced by Cal Poly students. The Cal Poly Organic farm, Cal Poly Sustainable Farm, and various Ag Enterprises sells its products in Campus & Village Markets. Look for the Cal Poly labels on products such as cheese, chocolate, jams, honey, and produce - you'll be supporting Cal Poly students and eating delicious, fresh food.

Cal Poly Eggs

Cal Poly chickens provide over 50,000 eggs a year to Campus Dining, but that's still not enough to feed all of the students and staff throughout the year! Campus Dining purchases additional eggs solely through NuCal foods, which is an agricultural cooperative composed of Northern California family farmers. All of the farms are sustainably run and provide humane living conditions for the chickens.

Sustainable Transportation

Campus Dining makes daily trips all around campus delivering ingredients, produce, and prepared foods. To reduce the environmental impact and save on fuel costs, Campus Dining is proud to operate a fleet that features:

  • 50% of their fleet program is run on electricity
  • Several vans and small trucks are run on bio-diesel

Efficient Appliances

Behind the scenes on campus, many of the appliances that wash dishes, keep the temperature constant, and cook food are Energy Star certified. To earn an Energy Star label, the government has certified that the appliance meets strict standards for efficiency. This means less water and less electricity are needed to keep Cal Poly running, day-in and day-out.

Hold the Tray - Save Water

If you dine in one of Campus Dining's establishments, you may notice something missing at most places - the trays. That's because washing trays requires thousands of gallons of water a year. Campus Dining is committed to water conservation, and eliminating trays is a simple way that the campus can cut down on water usage.

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Housing and Residential Life

University Housing considers sustainability an important priority in the ongoing maintenance and renovation of buildings and grounds.  University Housing invests utility savings from conservation programs and retrofit projects into a sustainability fund, which is used to support other sustainability projects and programs.  University Housing has also incorporated sustainability into many aspects of residential life, both in freshman dormitories and sophomore apartments.  These include education about sustainability, energy and water conservation competitions, recycling competitions, and community involvement. 

Annual Conservation and Diversion Challenge

lucid The Cal Poly Green Campus team annually teams up with University Housing and Residential Life to host the Annual Diversion and Conservation Challenge (ACDC). The ACDC will pit residents of the 6 Red Brick Buildings against each other to reduce the most energy and water use in thier buildings. Wate and Energy is tracked live using the Lucid Energy Dashboard during the duration of the two week competition. The winning hall recieves an ice cream social party featuring Batch ice cream sandwiches! Visit the Green Campus website to learn more.

Green Room Certified

eco repThe goal of the Green Room Certifications is threefold: to serve as a mechanism to continue increasing sustainability awareness, to bring together already sustainable minded students, and to bring in as many non-green students as possible into the community. The lifestyle choices of on campus residents impact their peers, campus, as well as the greater San Luis Obispo community. There are multitude of different successfully run Green Room programs across the country and many include publicly accessible models. These models have served as the template for the structure here at Cal Poly.

Sustainable Move In and Move Out

When you become part of the Cal Poly community, you are joining an academic institution dedicated to being a model for environmental stewardship. That means it's up to YOU to make every day sustainable choices! Here are a few tips to make the Move-In experience as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible:


  • Planning Ahead – Save time and money by knowing what will and will not fit in your room. You can learn about room features and furnishings at . Make sure you have a discussion with your roommate regarding who will be responsible for bringing particular furnishings to the room. There's no need for two televisions, two microwaves, two irons in one room!
  • Buy Secondhand – There are many options online for finding used lamps, textbooks, etc. from current and former Cal Poly students, whether it's Facebook (SLO County Buy, Sell, Trade), eBay, or the local thrift stores. Many used products still have years of life left in them and do not have a high environmental cost to transport.
  • Reuse & Repurpose - Ask your local grocer if they can spare any empty cardboard boxes instead of buying new ones. This will not only be a smart way to reduce waste, but a great way to save money on moving material. Also, remember that cardboard recycling is mandatory at Cal Poly since we are committed to becoming Zero Waste, so be sure to break down those boxes when you take them out to the recycling bins. Lastly, if you would rather avoid the cardboard, use plastic storage containers and suitcases that you can use over your college career.
  • Avoid Bottled Water - Instead of purchasing a large case of bottled water, we suggest taking advantage of the free refillable water stations located across campus or bringing your own water pitcher and rest assured knowing tap water has stricter health regulations than bottled. Also remember to use that free reusable water bottle that will be provided during WOW.
  • Choose Energy-Efficient Products – Bring LED or CFL bulbs which require 70% less energy than traditional bulbs. Pack a power strip to help you easily shut appliances when you leave your room. Buy ENERGY STAR®-qualified products. Bring the ultimate energy efficient tool with you, a clothes drying rack, to shorten those long waits down in the laundry room.

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