The University of Idaho Sustainability Center is pursuing multiple strategies to increase development of local, sustainable food systems in the Pacific Northwest.  The Sustainability Center, founded in 2006, hired the first Campus Sustainability Director and established the food systems committee in 2007.  The Sustainability Center food systems committee has been the driving force behind many of the accomplishments profiled in this timeline.


Palouse Clearwater Food Innovation Summit – November 2012

The morning session, entitled “Moving from Talk to Action” Identifies next steps, enlists participants and explores models for regional success in sustainable livestock production, processing & marketing.  The afternoon session, profiles current food systems efforts in the Palouse-Clearwater region.  Presentations include:

(1) The Livestock Project - UI Sustainability Center
(2) Inland Northwest Food Hub - City of Lewiston
(3) The Food Innovation and Research Center - Latah Economic Development Council
(4) University of Idaho Food and Economic Development Working Group - University of Idaho
(5) Two Degrees Northwest Asset Mapping - UI Extension and the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology.


The Sustainability Center merged with the Office of Community Partnerships — 2011

The Office of Community Partnerships supports Idaho communities through research and student projects focused on local priorities. We provide a front door for Idaho communities to access university resources, including UI Extension, the Service-Learning Center, and faculty throughout the university. Our projects aim to advance innovation and sustainability, build leadership, and create vibrant communities.  Learn more about OCP.

Bioplastic / Polylactic Acid Research — 2011

A student project funded by the UISC grant program will be conducted on the composting rates of bioplastic / polylactic acid (PLA) materials in differing microbial communities. Polylactic acid utensils used in the Commons Food and Farm program take up to a year to degrade in UI dairy compost bays. One goal of this project is to determine the optimal microbial environment needed to speed degradation of PLA products. $1,652.

UI’s undergraduate dining hall, Bob’s Place, Goes Tray-less — 2011

Going tray-less has reduced the waste stream by 16% and conserved 30,000 gallons of water in the first 34 weeks of this program.

President’s Sustainability Symposium — March 2011

One conference track investigates development of regional marketing and distribution Food Hubs designed to feed growing institutional demand for local and regional food in the Moscow-Pullman area.

USDA Grant. Developing Strategies to Increase Prosperity for Small Farms through Sustainable Livestock Production, Processing and Marketing — 2011 - 2013:

This two year $438,000 study will generate results to optimize strategies for small producers to increase revenues and minimize environmental impacts. The project will provide a roadmap for organizing next steps, whether to build local processing capacity, develop producer co-ops or educate producers on how to maximize results from the current system. To learn more visit the Livestock Project.


Sustainable Considerations in the UI Food Service Contract — 2010 - 2015

A new five year food service contract was awarded to Sodexo and executed in July 2010. Sustainable considerations include:

(1) Geographic purchasing preferences (71% of food from regionally grown sources, and 12.5% of food from locally grown sources).
(2) Conversion to a biodiesel fleet.
(3) A 90% reduction in waste (100 tons annually). A weekly risk-evaluation component of the contract, binds customer satisfaction and sustainability to the food service decisions Sodexo makes.

Food to Farm, going trayless, changes in attitudes and beliefs of students over time, and a variety of other efforts and changes have reduced waste at University of Idaho by a significant, but unknown amount. To measure progress toward geographic purchasing preference goals, campus dining is investigating where the food they purchase is grown. Currently, most meat is grown in Kansas and much of the produce (approximately 5400 pounds /week) is shipped from Florida. A small portion of meat and produce served by campus dining is produced on campus by Vandal Meats and Soil Stewards. Accurately measuring where food is grown is a challenge that the food service contractor has not addressed, in part due to complexities of the purchasing and invoicing process. The second sustainable consideration in the contract requires the food service provider to reduce waste by 90%. Food and Farm Composting reduces food waste, at a minimum by 37 tons annually. Campus Dining is developing waste measurement tools. The third sustainable consideration in the contract requires that the food service provider convert their fleet to an alternative fuel. Campus Dining donates used kitchen oil for conversion to biofuel on the U-Idaho campus and purchases biodiesel for use in four fleet vehicles.

EPA Grant: Implementing Cultural Change to Minimize Waste at University of Idaho — 2010 - 2011

This $26,254 project proposes to implement an outreach program to change University of Idaho culture towards more sustainable practices and behaviors targeting e-waste, paper and food waste. These targeted campaigns will reinforce general messages about reducing the overall waste stream and encourage better waste minimization and recycling behaviors, thereby reducing the volume and impacts of the university waste stream. View a sample of marketing materials.

Greenhouse 2010 — 2010

A student project funded by the UISC grant program entitled “Soil Stewards, UI’s student-led organic farm, will construction a greenhouse to facilitate crop rotation, season extension, and increased production of produce for sale to UI Dining Services. $3,000

Vegetable Garden — 2010

A student project funded by the UISC grant program entitled “The Campus Christian Center will expand their vegetable garden and terrace unused land. Produce will be used in the Center’s soup kitchen and donated to Backyard Harvest, a local non-profit that feeds the hungry. $2,700

Food on the Table –March 2010

140 local growers, educators, food advocates, community members met to discuss regional food system priorities at the “Food on the Table conference”. Outcomes include integrating regional food into the University of Idaho and Moscow’s K-12 school district, potential development of a local meat processing facility, and commercial kitchen. Learn more.

Harvest Baskets available from Soil Stewards UI’s Student-Led Organic Farm — 2010 - Present

There is a direct correlation between the amount of fresh produce sold and the number of new jobs created. In Moscow, demand for CSAs, community supported agriculture, also known as weekly harvest baskets, far exceed local supply. Increasing Soil Stewards farm production to accommodate sales to campus Dining and local CSAs is a profitable venture requiring additional year round farm positions and many volunteers.  To subscribe to a CSA or to volunteer on the farm contact Soil Stewards.


Sustainable Considerations in the UI Food Service Contract — 2009

As of Spring 2009, only around 5% of the food served in UI dining facilities was grown from within 100 miles of Moscow, Idaho, and only around 5% of total food served was organic. In order to increase these values and infuse sustainability into campus dining, the University of Idaho Sustainability Center Food Systems subcommittee worked with UI administrators in the drafting of a new food service contract. The contract requires the campus food service provider to (1) purchase 71% of food from regionally grown sources, and 12.5% of food from locally grown sources, (2) 90% reduction in waste (100 tons annually), and (3) convert their fleet to an alternative fuel.

Regional Grain — 2009

Campus Dining uses Shepherd’s Grain, regionally grown flour, in baked goods and bakes all their bread on campus.

Zero Waste Catering — 2009 – Present

Beginning in Fall 2009, zero waste events are available to patrons of Campus Dining. 6. Zero Waste Catering. Campus Dining catering offers two zero-waste catering options: durable, reusable china or compostable plates and utensils for more casual events.

Defining ‘Local’ and ‘Regional’ — 2009

The Sustainability Center’s working definition of local is Latah county and all adjacent counties. Regional is defined as Idaho, Eastern Washington, Western Montana, and Northeastern Oregon.


Attitudes About Food Survey — 2008

A survey conducted by the Sustainability Center shows that students, faculty and staff are pro organic, local, and seasonal foods and, 53% are willing to pay more for organically grown food. This data exposes important information about the clientele at UI dining facilities, information that can be utilized in the push for the usage of more local and organic foods on campus. This and other information from the survey will be used to develop education and awareness campaigns focused on food procurement and nutrition. 81.1% of students surveyed are somewhat or very interested in a dining option that offers student grown produce. Eating fresh, local food on campus is very or somewhat interesting to 91.8 percent of respondents.  The Attitudes About Food Survey and others are available on the ‘surveys’ page of this website.

Greenhouse Gas Inventories for NW Feedlots — 2008 - 2009

Agri-Beef and Beef Northwest have contracted the Sustainability Center to conduct Green House Gas inventories for northwest feedlots striving to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Composting Pilot Project at Bob’s Place — 2008

As part of UI’s participation in RecycleMania, a friendly competition among colleges and universities to reduce waste and increase waste diversion, a composting pilot project was initiated at Bob’s Place, the largest dining facility on campus. A multitude of obstacles were encountered during the 10-week pilot that impeded the collection of compost. When all was said and done the pilot project resulted in the composting of about 7,000 pounds of food waste.

Campus Dining Goes Compostable — 2008

The collaboration of UI Campus Dining and the UISC led to the conversion of serve ware to compostable products in dining facilities, with the exception of paper cups and plastic silverware. This conversion was completed on January 1, 2008 and research is currently being conducted to find cost effective compostable alternatives to paper cups and plastic silverware.

Coffee Composting Project — 2008

A student project funded by the UI Sustainability Center grant program entitled “Moscow Coffee Compost Project” focused on collecting and composting coffee grounds from UI Campus Dining and community coffee shops. The collected coffee/tea grounds were taken to nearby community compost piles where they assisted in the creation of rich compost.

Food Miles Educational Campaign — 2008

A student project funded by the UI Sustainability Center grant program entitled “A student project funded by the UISC grant program entitled “Food Miles: The Real Cost of What’s on Your Plate” focused on investigating the environmental impacts of locally produced food and comparing against non-local food sources. An informative campaign was launched that included ads in the Argonaut, digital ads, and thought-provoking clothing with the goal of getting students, faculty and staff to increase their consumption of local food.

Reducing Food Waste in Dining Halls — 2008

A student project funded by the UI Sustainability Center grant program entitled “In Spring 2008, the University of Idaho Sustainability Center lead an educational campaign at the main dining hall on campus focused on waste reduction. This campaign utilized data from a student project that estimated the amount of post-consumer food waste generated daily in the dining hall. Along with educating students the campaign also tried to better understand the reasons behind student’s wasteful behavior.

Tray-less Tuesdays — 2008

In an effort to reduce food waste and increase consciousness of diners Bob’s Place, the major student dining facility on campus, began tray-less Tuesdays in Fall 2008. By only switching to tray-less one day a week campus dining will be able to gauge diner response and the impact upon their operations, and utilize this information to plan for a future full time switch to tray-less dining.

Reusable Mug Discount — 2008 - Present

In an attempt to reduce waste generated by disposable coffee cups the UISC and Campus Dining developed an incentive to promote the usage of reusable mugs. Any individual who uses a reusable mug at any coffee shop on campus receives a 10% discount on drip coffee and a 25% discount on espresso drinks.

Food and Farm Composting — 2008 - Present

Food waste from the Commons and Bob’s Place is being composted along with University livestock manure, animal bedding and other biodegradable materials at the UI Dairy located one mile from core campus.

One of the most important indicators of success is collection of compostable materials which are fee of contamination or non-biodegradable materials like plastics. A pool of approximately 40 student volunteers teaches dining patrons how to sort their lunch leftovers and minimize contamination from 9:30am - 2:30pm, M-F.  In exchange for one hour of work, volunteers receive a free lunch and drink complements of campus dining.  To volunteer contact

To reduce the waste stream associated with Campus Dining food services, disposable products, like styrofoam cups are being systematically replaced with compostable or recyclable products. For example, plastic sushi trays, have been upgraded to a polylactic acid (derived from sugar cane or corn starch) products which are fully compostable. 
Each year approximately 37 tons of pre and post-consumer food waste is composted with 100 tons of livestock manure, animal bedding, and other biodegradable materials. Food and Farm composting, saves the university approximately $7500 dollars annually in avoided disposal costs. In addition to providing savings on disposal costs, finished compost is used as bedding for UI dairy cows, or land applied as a soil amendment reducing the current need to purchase compost.

Materials landfilled by University of Idaho also represent a substantial environmental footprint through transportation to a landfill 200 miles away in Oregon, through the use of landfill space, and through the loss of resources needed by future society and economy.  In 2010, the University spent approximately $376,000 to landfill 1500 tons of SW annually. The cost to dispose of waste is conservatively $272.00 per ton. This cost represents Latah Sanitation fees only, and does not include UI costs associated with managing solid waste.

Food and Farm composting is a collaborative effort of Campus Dining, Palouse Research, Extension and Education Center (PREEC), and the Sustainability Center.


Campus Sustainability Director — 2007 - Present

The Sustainability Center, with financial support from Facilities, Environmental Science, and the Office of the President, hired the first Campus Sustainability Director, Darin Saul, in 2007.  That same year, Saul started a handful of strategic committees including the Sustainability Center food systems committee which has been the driving force behind many of the accomplishments profiled in this timeline. 

Food Systems Committee 

 2007 - 2011

The UI Sustainability Center Food Systems Committee, established in 2007, collaborates with Campus Dining to integrate local and regional food, increase nutritional offerings and minimize waste associated with the preparation and service of 5000-6000 meals daily. The collaboration between the Food Systems Committee and Campus Dining has resulted in many positive outcomes.

Sustainability Center Mini Grants Fund Student-Led Food Systems Projects — 2007 - Present

Each year the Sustainability Center awards a total of $15,000 in grant funding for student-led sustainable projects. Special consideration is given for projects that focus on: climate change, carbon neutrality, campus food systems, waste reduction, reusing, recycling and campus culture change. Many student-led projects have strengthened food systems on campus.

McCall Outdoor Science Composting Project — 2007

The first of many Sustainability Center grant funded projects was at The McCall Outdoor Science Center an off-campus facility that specializes in using the outdoors as a tool for educating elementary students about science, place, and community. Students were granted funding to develop a composting program at the McCall Outdoor Science Center. This project not only reduces waste but also educates young students about composting and living more sustainably.


The original Sustainability Center was launched by a broad coalition of student volunteers with support from staff, community, faculty, all three student governments (undergraduate ASUI, graduate student GPSA, and law student SBA), residence hall presidents and many clubs. During spring of 2006, this effort culminated in the passing of a $5 per semester student fee that continues to support UI Sustainability Center activities. Student fees support student staff, student programs and events, mini-grants and administrative support for the center.  Learn more about the Center’s history and programs.


Fair Trade Coffee — 2005

Students concerned about the social and environmental impact of their coffee decided to take action in late 2005. The University of Idaho Environmental Club led a campaign that resulted in all UI coffee shops serving Fair Trade Certified coffee. With the help of UI Campus Dining students now have the option to fill their mug without feeling guilty. Fair Trade Certified coffee meets the Fair Trade principles: a fair price for the grower, fair labor conditions, direct trade, democratic and transparent organizations, community development, and environmental sustainability.


Soil Stewards: A Student-Led Organic Farm — 2003 - Present

Although the University of Idaho may not source a large volume of food products from the local area, the university does have a student-run farm on campus that provides vegetables to Campus Dining. This farm is run by the student organization Soil Stewards—a student group committed to organic farming and sustainable community food systems. The farm serves as an educational tool, as well as a source for fresh local vegetables.  Soil Stewards has established annual contracts for organic produce, primarily root crops, with University of Idaho Campus Dining. Growing and preparation practices, perimeter fencing, hand washing stations and delivery methods are being modified by Soil Stewards to meet corporate standards for food safety as specified by Campus Dining.