Montana State University

University Food Services

  • Sustainability



With President Gamble signing the Presidents Climate Commitment , and increasing demand from our student customers, University Food Services has taken a forward thinking approach to sustainability. We have the opportunity and responsibility to make our campus, community, and world a better place. University Food Services is currently pursuing various ways to substantially minimize their waste, conserve natural resources, and provide more sustainable solutions in their food service operation.  If you have any suggestions for additional sustainable efforts Food Services could implement, please email Stephanie Hanson with your ideas and information.




University Food Services recognizes that the nature of the food service business has a measurable effect on the environment which is why we are committed to reducing our waste stream.

In 2009, UFS did in-depth research on the feasibility of implementing a composting program at the University level.  The research included: equipment required, costs, grants, location, transportation logistics and sanitation requirements. With funding from CSAC and the President's Office, a composting pilot was initiated on August 30, 2010 and continued through December 17, 2010. Pre-consumer waste was collected from the Fat Cat Bakery and Skinny Kitty Salad departments and transported to Earth Systems Organic Composting . While valuable data was collected from the pilot, UFS is now collaborating with Facility Services and Earth Systems to continue the pilot in Harrison Dining Hall to ultimately evaluate waste input from a different source.

UFS hopes to eventually integrate their composting efforts into Towne's Harvest Garden and generate a fertilizing source for the operation of the farm. This would allow us to convert waste into resources that would benefit students (via integration into the curriculum), the campus farm, and the greater community.

Towne's Harvest Garden

University Food Services has been working closely with Towne's Harvest Garden (MSU student farm), the on-campus Registered Sanitarian, and the Farm to College Vista Coordinator to enable UFS to purchase produce from THG. Beginning in the fall of 2011, UFS will purchase red onions, white onions, and squash from THG to use in their operations. UFS will continue to find ways to increase the amount of food we purchase from THG.


Campus Sustainability Advisory Council (CSAC):

In 2008, President Gamble signed the American College and University President's Climate Committee (ACUPCC).   Soon thereafter, the MSU CSAC was established to advise the MSU President on meeting the ACUPCC obligations, and many related issues.

CSAC is currently drafting a Climate Action Plan, which details GHG emissions reduction strategies, research, education, civic engagement, and other efforts to promote climate stabilization and progression towards sustainability initiatives. To get a more in-depth look at CSAC activities and meeting minutes, please visit the CSAC website .

Network of Environmentally Conscious Organizations (NECO):

University Food Services has worked closely with the student group NECO during Fall of 2008 and Spring of 2009 to encourage sustainable efforts throughout MSU. The NECO group has been an invaluable student voice about sustainable issues on campus. Food Services continuously looks to them for student input on what UFS could do to increase our sustainable actions. Check out the NECO website for additional information.

Friends of Local Foods (FLF):

FLF was formed in the fall of 2006 to bring concerned students, faculty, and community members together to raise awareness, create academic opportunities and conduct research related to local food systems and food quality. It was from this group that Towne's Harvest Garden became a reality. Food Services has worked with FLF to increase purchases of local Montana products, from THG as well as other businesses around the state. For more information about FLF, or to become a member, you can email the organization.

*Join the local community and support local food at the

Gallatin Earth Celebration (GEC):

In cooperation with the City of Bozeman, MSU assisted in hosting an array of events during Earth Week 2010. Food Service members were active participants in the week long celebration and hosted events ranging from a 5k run, composting demonstrations, local foods in residence halls and retail operations, and Trayless Tuesday. Plans for Earth Week 2011 are underway and we are looking forward to making this year's event even bigger and better!

Current Projects

Trayless Dining

MSU Food Services conducted a food waste audit in Miller, Harrison, and Hannon Dining Halls in the spring of 2010, and went Trayless during the Tuesday and Wednesday of Earth Week. Going Trayless for one day resulted in an estimated savings of 2,000 gallons of water and 312 pounds of food - in ONE DAY.

Reduction of food waste is an essential part of University Food Services' sustainable efforts. Over 60 NACUFS affiliated universities have gone Trayless at their dining operations in an effort to be as sustainable as possible. Beginning this fall semester, Miller, Hannon, and Harrison Dining Halls will be Trayless facilities. Trayless dining reduces food waste, conserves energy, reduces water waste, reduces chemical waste, and encourages healthier eating habits. To look at findings from other universities, click here for a brief summary.

Additional information regarding Trayless in the news:


Recycling is an essential part of any green campus. University Food Service has been recycling cardboard for over 10 years. With the new recycling program initiated by the ASMSU Sustainability Office and associated students, UFS has had the opportunity to work with Full Circle Recycling and ultimately reduce our traditional waste footprint. We currently recycle cardboard in all three residence dining halls as well as in the UFS retail locations and are optimistic that we will be able to expand our recycling efforts. For more information about Full Circle, call (406) 570-5561.

Minimizing Disposables

As requested by student customers, the Styrofoam containers previously available at retail operations were removed in the spring of 2009. When the use of disposable packaging cannot be avoided, customers can now have items wrapped with saran wrap, or purchase a biodegradable to-go container for $0.35 in all retail locations. By removing the Styrofoam containers, we were able to reduce the amount of to-go containers from 1,000 per month to 250. The Union Market Grill and Avogadro’s also utilize reusable serving baskets for in-house orders rather than Styrofoam plates.

Disposable plates have recently been removed from the Pacific Rim and replaced with non-disposable plates. The Union Market will also offer non-disposable tare weight plates at the salad bar beginning March 21, 2011. For more information, please contact Dan Yerigan.

Bulk Condiments

University Food Services has recently installed bulk condiment dispensers in the retail dining operations rather than single serving packages to further minimize our waste stream.

Take Back the Tap

In coordination with the City of Bozeman and the ASMSU Sustainability Office, University Food Services supports the "Take Back the Tap" initiative. Take Back the Tap is a pledge that individuals, organizations and business can take to not drink bottled water. It is a promotion of refillable water bottles to reduce the waste plastic water bottles produced as well as the wasted energy to manufacture and transport the bottled water. UFS has purchased stainless steel Take Back the Tap branded water bottles which are available for sale in the Union Market and Avogadro’s for $10 each. All proceeds from campus sales will benefit the MSU Recycling program.

Refillable Mugs

Please take a few minutes to take this survey regarding possible advancements to our reusable mug program!

Over the last 25 years, University Food Services has promoted the "Refillable Mug" program in key retail locations. All customers who bring in a refillable mug or water bottle will receive $.20 off their fountain purchase. This incentive has proven to significantly reduce the amount of disposable cups that are used throughout the operations.

The retail operations also offers a reusable 32 oz. "Hydro-Mug" for an initial purchase of $2.50 that includes the first fill and a coupon for an additional free refill as well as $.50 savings for each use. The SRO and Brewed Awakening also offer branded reusable mugs that include a $.25 discount on specialty drinks and a $.45 discount on drip coffee for every use.

In coordination with ResLife, UFS distributes reusable mugs to every student living in the ResHalls at the beginning of each academic year. These mugs not only encourage incoming students to practice sustainable behaviors but also allow the students to take beverages out of the dining halls and are honored with the $.20 discount in retail operations.

Oil Re-Use

In 2008, University Food Services partnered with Bozeman Biofuels to recycle used fryer oil. Biofuels picks up the oil on a scheduled basis and converts it into biodiesel that is then sold to their customers. The UFS retail locations also utilize a professional filtration system that extends the use of the fryer oil which ultimately decreases the disposal rate.

Energy Saving Equipment

Whenever possible, UFS purchases equipment that maximizes efficiencies. As replacement equipment becomes necessary, long-term benefits of energy savings and environmental impact is high on the list of criteria. One certification for such products is Energy Star . In addition, for equipment and supplies where Energy Star is not available, energy savings is still a priority when making a selection.