Worried about climate change? You’re not alone. If you’re searching for an example of local action, look no further than Bridgewater State Dining. General Manager Staci DeSimone (she/her) and Campus Executive Chef Joseph Pina (he/him) sat down with The Comment to discuss some of the sustainable initiatives that Dining has implemented.
“Sodexo as a company has always been a sustainable forward company,” said DeSimone. “One of the reasons that Bridgewater State took us on as a partner is because of our sustainable practices.” She mentioned Dining’s standard practices, including “local purchasing, recycling, composting, whatever we can do in partnership with the university to move them forward in the same direction.”
Students have the opportunity to work with Sodexo through Collaborative University Business Experiences, or CUBEs, in the classroom. “We partnered with one of the professors here on campus and her students come over to ECC and they get scrapings of vegetables and fruit and they use it to make their own compost pile out in those gardens,” said DeSimone.
The permaculture garden, sponsored by the BSU Sustainability Program, can be found near the Miles and DiNardo Halls. DeSimone also had the opportunity to go into the classroom and educate students about Dining’s practices.
Frequenters of the Bears Den might notice The Natural List station, which highlights New England brands. Working with local businesses is a another major piece of Dining’s sustainable action. “We’re a bigger company, we want to be able to keep our roots local, wherever we are,” Pina explained.
“We use a produce vendor called Baldor, and we’re able to connect with local farms, so that we have what’s called “The Harvest of the Month” every month,” said Pina. Local produce is highlighted in dishes at some of the dining halls, and on Dining social media (@bsufoods on Instagram).
DeSimone says she found that the students she worked with were often interested in the business side of sustainable practices and stated the need to balance sustainability with logistics. “I think sometimes we have this expectation that if you decide on Tuesday you want local that you’ll get it on Wednesday,” she said. “And that’s not necessarily the case.”
Pina described how Dining tracks its progress internally. “We build what’s kind of… a report card, in that sense, semester by semester, where we go to kind of talk about the things that we think were successful,” he said. “Whether it be a food program, whether we do our sustainability piece, so that we can really kind of talk to the university… we’re really putting it together at the end of the semester and saying, ‘these are the accomplishments or these are the goals going forward of where we’ve been.'”
Climate change is a complex issue that will require change across many aspects of society. DeSimone and Pina discussed why small, local changes are still meaningful. “I think I would love to say we can change the world, right? But you can only do that one piece at a time,” she said.
She mentioned her focus on educating students, and how the sustainable practices learned at BSU can translate to other scenarios. “If you’re doing it 10 hours a day at work, it’s going to translate to your home life. So I hope that the little square footage that we have here at Bridgewater State, you know, can make an impact in a lot of ways.”
Pina echoed the sentiment. “Sustainability isn’t one person recycling and everything’s going to be okay… it’s a communal effort,” he said. “Everybody just does a little something, and then it becomes a much bigger something.”