small plant held in the palm of hand


Penn State is serious about reducing waste, educating our students about sustainable practices, and encouraging a sustainable lifestyle. 

The Impact of Food Services:

  • Partnership with Leanpath to track, measure, and prevent food waste
  • Recycling in and near all dining commons and eateries on campus of metal cans, plastic bottles, newspaper, mixed office paper and glass bottles
  • Partner with the Student Farm to bring hyper-local produce to the dining commons
  • Meet Your Farmer interactives and Local Meal special events to increase education about where our food is produced
  • Compost leftover food and kitchen scraps on campus, which is used for soil enrichment and landscaping projects
  • Support local vendor purchasing
  • Partner with the Central PA Food Bank to redirect food resources from campus to community
  • Efforts to reduce plastic bag usage in convenience stores
  • Support paperless communication practices
  • Sponsors Student Sustainability Coordinators to help educate students and staff on sustainable practices
  • Supported by Housing and Food Services Sustainability Coordinator to direct programs and measure sustainability progress
  • Alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals

What we're doing to help

PSreUse Reusable Containers

We are excited to relaunch our reusable container program in the buffet locations. PSreUse is a more accessible and convenient option and helps us reduce styrofoam waste in our operations.

Food Waste Reduction

Serving thousands of customers daily, uneaten food on college campuses can result in massive amounts of waste. Decomposing food waste is a top contributor to climate change, while 1 in 7 Pennsylvanians experience food insecurity. The issue is being addressed head on at Penn State through such initiatives as:

  • Leanpath: Innovative technology and a partnership with Leanpath allows us to track and measure all Residential Dining food waste. In the first year of using Leanpath, we realized a 30% reduction in food waste. Goal-setting, data analysis, and collaboration are all important tools in reducing food waste from its source
  • Various Serving Sizes: Preparing dishes smaller than an average serving size to a variety of options and allowing customers to take only what will be eaten
  • Waste Audits: Gathering and analyzing food waste statistics to understand effectiveness of other initiatives
  • Food Recovery: Over 140, 000 lbs. of food have been recovered from Food Services by the Central PA Food Bank since November 2018. In addition to serving 26 counties in PA directly, the food bank also has a partner network of over 1,000 agencies that help recover food. Abba Java is a local parter that recovers campus food to distribute downtown

Composting stations in each dining common also aid in the reduction of food waste.  Customers separate compostable food from other waste before dishes are cleaned.  Penn State then composts all food waste by sending it to the on-campus composting facility.  The composted materials are returned to the University grounds through landscaping soil.

Local Foods

Choosing locally-produced food helps to reduce environmental pollution associated with transportation and food waste due to spoilage, while benefitting the surrounding economy and community. Local produce is provided to the dining commons through partnerships with the Student Farm and other local producers.

Penn State Hyper-Local Food Suppliers Include:

The Student Farm - A one acre, student-run farm at Penn State used to create and supply fresh produce at on campus eateries

The Berkey Creamery - Primary provider of dairy products for the University. The Creamery provides items made by the College of Agriculture

Penn State‚Äôs Meats Lab - An on-campus meat processing facility that works with research and extension education while also providing Campus Dining with fresh meats

Other locally-produced food options: 

18% of all food purchases on campus come from local or PA suppliers. We consistently work with the PA Dept of Ag and local producers to incorporate as many local offerings into our menu as possible.

Recycling & Composting

Recycling and composting facilities are within 5 miles of campus, which helps to decrease fossil fuel consumption and landfill waste. Campus Dining works in collaboration with student groups to educate customers about waste diversion and where waste materials can be disposed. Penn State recycles plastic bottles, glass, metal, paper, and compost material, such as waste.

Recycling Used Oil

In collaboration with Mopac, Penn State recycles used cooking oil to ensure compliance with all FDA standards before repurposing the material. Recycled oil goes through a rigorous process to remove pathogens and other materials before being reintroduced as fuel in environmentally friendly biofuel markets or in the creation of animal feed. Penn State submissions to Mopac have resulted in 80% of the finished processed product being recycled.