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Berkeley Dining Goes for the Green

Perhaps no area of the country-is more environmentally-conscious than Berkeley, the notoriously liberal community in Northern California's San Francisco Bay region where the fervently environmentalist Green Party is an electoral force..

At the heart of Berkeley's green activism is the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. So if you are anyone with any responsibility for any department that has any connection to waste or non-sustainable resource consumption, well, you better be right with Mother Earth.

That's the situation UC-Berkeley Dining Director Shawn La-Pean finds himself in. LaPean has been charged not only with upgrading the school's culinary operations, but doing so in an Earthfriendly way.

His progress toward achieving that goal took a huge leap forward recently when the campus's largest student dining commons, Crossroads, recently became the first campus facility to be certified as a Bay Area Green Business by Alameda County officials.

The honor means that Crossroads, which opened in January 2003, meets specific criteria aimed at conserving energy and water, reducing waste and preventing pollution. And it demonstrates the campus's continuing efforts to make its dining halls, which serve 8,000 meals a day, more environmentally friendly and dedicated to sustainable practices.

ìCrossroads has become a model for other units at UC Berkeley by incorporating sustainable practices into its operations,” says Mark Freiberg, director of UC Berkeley's Office of Environment, Health & Safety. ìIts efforts demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement and an awareness of environmental sensitivities that moves beyond regulatory compliance.”

ìThe goal is to have all four dining halls certified by fall 2006,” adds LaPean.

Crossroads has window space to let in natural light, energy-efficient lighting, low-flow water faucets, and tables cleaned with cloth instead of paper. Its water conservation efforts alone have resulted in saving 180,000 gallons a month. The dining hall also donates excess food to a local homeless shelter and gives food scraps to an on-campus worm collective, ìBerkeley Worms.”

In another new ìgreen” initiative-this fall, the four campus dininghalls are offering quickly biodegrading take-out packaging made from sugar cane. LaPean says the facilities will likely go through 2,500 such containers a day.

Meanwhile, homeless shelter donations will also be expanded to include all four dining halls. Crossroads had begun donating food to Harrison House, a Berkeley shelter, in May.

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