The awards were created by the Students for Sustainable Living program. Students use a scorecard to evaluate sustainable practices and to determine winners based on criteria such as use of local and organic food, energy and water conservation, and composting (to reduce landfill waste).
The high-scoring Refectory at Duke Law and Nasher Museum Cafe won the "Best Overall" award. Both locations impressed the evaluators with their integration of environmentally-friendly practices throughout the eatery, from the Refectory at Duke Law's participation in a local vegan challenge and "Fresh Catch Friday" showcasing local seafood, to the Nasher Museum Cafe's method of building their menus around the local and organic ingredients that are available.
There were also two award recipients for "Best Non-Franchise Restaurant", Saladelia and the Divinity Cafe. The management of each of these eateries displayed true passion for sustainability and went the extra mile to limit each location's footprint. Some of the noteworthy practices include: 1) Saladelia's work with the "Seeds" program that teaches underprivileged youth how to garden and the restaurantâs use of herbs from its own garden, which is irrigated using rainwater collection, and 2) the Divinity Cafe's easily understood waste disposal options (composting and recycling available to patrons, and clearly labeled) and food donation program that helps families in need.
Au Bon Pain was recognized in the "Best Franchise" category, standing out thanks to the use of natural and antibiotic-free meats and paper/plastic products that incorporate recycled content. Joe Van Gogh won the "Best Cafe" award for the location's focus on organic coffee and local baked goods.
Special awards were given to Penn Pavilion for outstanding sustainability practices in the "Most Innovative" category, to Blue Express and Twinnie' Cafe in the "Most Improved" category for consistently incorporating new green measures, and to Red Mango in the "Notable" category.
Some of the most significant innovations were found at Penn Pavilion: a pulper machine that turns all post-consumer biodegradable items into pellets that can be composted (including chicken bones, napkins, etc.), a blast chiller for flash-freezing food items that saves energy, and blinds that move with the sun in order to reduce the need for heating/cooling.
The management at Blue Express and Twinnie's demonstrated their commitment to sustainability in their food choices, their operations, and even their decor- with a map of North Carolina painted on the wall at Blue Express showing customers the local food options and their origins. Red Mango is a new eatery on campus, but the manager is already thinking about waste reduction by offering a reusable cup program for smoothies at this frozen yogurt shop.
To determine winners, student employees of Sustainable Duke met with management from each eatery to discuss how each location is working to be environmentally-friendly through food choices, operations, and buying decisions. Every winning eatery will be presented with a bamboo plaque at the Duke University Sustainability Awards ceremony on Earth Day, April 22.