Late last year, University of Colorado-Boulder Events Planning & Catering gave its catering clients a new, more economical option that still maintains the department’s and the university’s commitment to minimizing negative impacts on the environment. The new Express Menu program gives smaller groups an option for ordering off a set but still fairly upscale menu and getting it delivered to their venue, either on or off campus.
The items are packaged in attractive containers that are 93 percent compostable, and each order comes with a green compostable bag into which the client is asked to put all leftover items and used containers (except drink container liners and coffee creamer vessels, which aren’t compostable at this time), and then set it in or next to the closest trash receptacle.
“We started this because it’s part of trying to reduce the carbon footprint within the university setting and of course Boulder County,” explains Marc Roth, associate director for campus dining, catering & special events. “[The Express Menu] was originally intended as a quick-service drop-off program, but when we thought about those initiatives, we decided we were going to take it to the next level and offer it as a complete zero-waste program.”
The initiative was originally launched as a pilot last December and is now slated to become a permanent program, Roth says.
“The real reason for the pilot was to see how our clientele would react to this service,” he explains, “and we’re getting some really nice responses. What’s great about it is that we really have to enlist the customer [to participate in the composting effort] as it is a drop-off program [where] we leave them instructions” on how to treat the waste and leftovers. Orders range from 10 to 20 on an average week, he says, but expectations are for more now that the program has become permanent and will receive greater promotion.
The Express Menu option complements the department’s full-service catering program, which handles the vast majority of catering on campus and also serves off-campus clients.
Meanwhile, the Express menu offers meetings with 10 to 75 participants gourmet breakfast and lunch menus with options like bagels, yogurt parfaits, freshly baked pastries, sandwiches and salads from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays.
The dishes are made with as many locally sourced and organic components as practical, Roth emphasizes. “This is a completely different menu and exclusive for this program,” he adds. In fact, we just put out a brand-new menu in January for [it].”
Everything is attractively packaged in the compostable containers. Customers can either pick up their orders or have it delivered with no fee.
“We get a lot of comments on the packaging, the presentation, the instructions and, of course, the cuisine,” Roth observes. “I consider it an upscale drop-off program.”
The extra care taken with the packaging, as well as with some of the production—for example, condiments like mayo and mustard have to be repacked in compostable containers—does take some extra time and labor, Roth concedes. “Sometimes we even tie ribbons on some of the packages,” he laughs, “but we want them to be aesthetically pleasing.”
However, he adds, “the most important thing for me is [minimizing] the carbon footprint and offering a sustainable product within CU guidelines.”