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Trayless Dining 

After studying the impact of trayless dining, UGA Dining Services took a big step to reduce waste by removing trays from their five dining commons. The department worked with the UGA Office of Sustainability to collect data during a two-week test period. Snelling Dining Commons was set as the control. During the test’s first week, trays were provided in Snelling as normal. The plate waste that came through the tray return was measured by volume and weight. During the second week, trays were removed from Snelling and the same measurements were obtained. The water meter was also monitored to see how water usage would be affected with no trays to wash. The results showed a 26.7 percent reduction in plate waste and a 16.4 percent reduction in water usage during the week without trays.  Some of the many benefits of trayless dining include reducing waste, conserving water, and saving energy.  

100% Compostable

Dining Services recently reached its goal of eliminating all  non-compostable items from the dining commons.  This was done by switching from non-biodegradeable products like individual condiment packets, tea bags with paper tags attached by metal staple, and plastic straws to more sustainable options like reusable bulk condiment stations, 100% silk tea bags, and bio-degradeable paper straws. What this means is that now 100% of food waste in the dining commons is being pulped and sent to the Bioconversion center where it is composted and reused on campus.


Commitment to Sustainability

UGA Dining Services takes environmental sustainability very seriously and advocates the concepts of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in all campus Dining services operations. Dining Services has been a long time campus advocate of these concepts. Dining Services was recognized with the 2003 Community Champion award for its support feeding the homeless in the community. Some of our other initiatives are:


  • Our dining commons use trash pulper systems to drastically reduce the volume of paper and food waste sent to local landfills. The use of these systems also dramatically reduces water usage in trash disposal systems
  • We consolidate the majority of our deliveries to a central food storage facility, which reduces delivery truck traffic on campus
  • Napkins are placed on tables instead of at silverware stations. Since implementing this practice we estimate napkin consumption on campus has reduced by 50%
  • We purchase products with minimum packing (ex. pouched vs. canned products)
  • Installing timers on lighting
  • Specifying energy efficient replacement equipment
  • Use of energy efficient lighting
  • Use of electric hand dryers in lieu of paper towels in public restrooms
  • Reduction of water use - Example: We have annually reduced water use at Snelling Dining Commons by 38.9%
  • Reduction of plastic waste in the community with "Hydration Stations" for refilling water bottles
  • Dining Services reduced its water usage in 2008 by 2.05 million gallons of water through conservation efforts. Since then, we have maintained this sustainable practice
  • Dining Services promotes sustainability by purchasing regional produce and food products when available


  • Our dining commons use permanent dishes, glassware, and flatware, eliminating the need for disposable products
  • Dining Services is also a major contributor to both the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia and Full Plate. The Food Bank recovers donated and salvaged surplus food and distributes it to human-service agencies. Full Plate distribute prepared food to local charities that operate emergency shelters, food pantries, after-school programs and soup kitchens in the Athens area


  • In all of our facilities, we recycle our office supplies, cardboard, glass, plastic and metal cans. New employees are taught the procedures and value of recycling
  • Bins for recycling cardboard, newspapers, plastic, and aluminum are provided in many of our facilities
  • All used cooking oil is sent off to be recycled
  • We recycle all of our ink jet and toner cartridges
  • We purchase office paper with a minimum 30% recycled content
  • Providing on campus collection sites for recycling cardboard, newspapers, plastic and aluminum
  • Eco-friendly disposable serviceware is used in our retail food courts

UGA Dining Services invites you to visit the dining link on the Campus Sustainability website for additional information about our sustainability efforts.

Recognition for Sustainability

In 2016 Interim Executive Director of Dining Services Bryan Varin was honored with the UGA Office of Sustainability's Outstanding Staff Award. According to his nominator, "Bryan's commitment to sustainability permeates his staff and their massive daily operations. While change can be slow in a large institution, Bryan remains open and forward-thinking toward innovative solutions that nourish both people and the planet." UGA Dining Services also had a winner of the same award in 2014. Sustainable UGA Award winners are nominated by their peers in the UGA community for going above and beyond to demonstrate dedicated efforts to conserve natural resources, advance sustainability initiatives and improve quality of life, both on and off-campus. Considered a champion of sustainability initiatives at UGA by the Office of Sustainability, They recognized in part for their efforts to provide local and sustainable foods, reduce water use, and for theircommitment to ensuring that food waste leaving the dining commons is 100% compostable so it may be repurposed in the bioconversion center on campus.

Georgia Grown

“Georgia Grown” is a local-minded brand with deep roots in sustainability, quality and integrity.  Each dining commons has menu items marked with the Georgia Grown icon. This icon means that an item contains ingredients sourced from Georgia. UGA Dining Services has been committed to Georgia farmers for years; working with an Atlanta based produce distributor and sourcing local products whenever possible because we recognize the value & importance of working with our neighbors. Rest assured when you see the “Georgia Grown” label that your food is helping to support Georgia.