The Mason Dining team maintains numerous initiatives aimed at making George Mason University a more sustainable campus. We source numerous products locally, including milk, honey, and produce according to seasonal availability. In addition, an on-campus greenhouse, two “Urban Cultivator” herb-growing units in our dining halls, and a partnership with Zeponic farms, provide freshly harvested lettuces and herbs. Our dining halls serve 100% sustainable seafood as well as fair trade and organic coffee, and Chefs build menus packed with plant-based, vegan, and ¬¬vegetarian menu offerings. Through a partnership with the Mason Campus Kitchens student group, which recovers food from the dining halls, we donate to local shelters and soup kitchens. All on-campus Sodexo units recycle plastic, glass, and aluminum waste and resident dining halls reduce food waste by using a waste pulping system. Food waste reduction efforts also extend to continually serving smaller portions in all-you-can-eat settings, trayless dining, and outreach efforts such as Weigh the Waste events. To track our progress toward long-term sustainability goals with programs such as the AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System reporting tool. These and other Mason Dining sustainability initiatives are detailed on the page below.

Campus Sustainability Programs & Initiatives

The Mason Dining Team is dedicated to making Mason Dining and George Mason University a sustainable campus. With your cooperation, we can work to make differences right here on campus. We care about your concerns and encourage you to contact with questions and comments.

In addition to Sodexo’s company-wide sustainability initiatives, listed here:

Mason Dining has implemented the following programs specific to our campus:

President’s Park Greenhouse

The President’s Park Greenhouse, located adjacent to Ike’s, grows lettuce and herbs for Ike’s dining hall. For more information about current harvest and volunteer opportunities in the greenhouse, visit the Facebook page here:

Read more about the President’s Park Greenhouse here:

Ike’s will serve Mason-grown food

Local Food Purchasing

Mason Dining is committed to purchasing locally sourced products – defined as grown, raised, or produced within 250 miles of the GMU campus. Below are some of our achievements to date.
100% of our milk is sourced locally from Harrisburg Dairies in PA
We serve local, raw honey from Hungry Hill Farms, VA
For our dining halls we buy a variety of local produce based on seasonal availability from Keany Produce, a local produce company located only 35 miles away in Landover, Maryland.

Locally sourced produce is served daily in the resident dining halls and worked into seasonal menus designed by each unit’s Executive Chef. Customers can identify locally sourced items by checking a weekly list in resident dining facilities.

Urban Cultivator

Mason Dining is dedicated to bringing fresh and locally grown produce to our dining halls. In an effort to reach this goal Mason Dining just added two new Urban Cultivator growing machines – one at Southside and the other at Ike’s.

The Urban Cultivator is a fully automated kitchen garden that grows organic herbs, vegetables, and micro greens while reducing our carbon footprint. No chemicals are used during the growing process. Once the greens have grown they can be harvested from the Cultivator and served strait to the students. Greens grown in the Urban Cultivator are completely organic and have zero food miles!

Southside and Ike’s will use the Urban Cultivators to grow fresh herbs and vegetables. We are currently growing kale, cilantro, sugar pees, komatsuna, basil, pepper arugula, broccoli, and spicy radish.
For more information on the Urban Cultivator click here. (here will be a link to the websit

For more information on the Urban Cultivator click Here

Real Food Challenge

Mason Dining has partnered with the Real Food Challenge, a national organization that helps colleges and universities incorporate more “real food” into their dining programs – defined as
locally sourced, fairly produced (Fair Trade certified or Rainforest Alliance), humane (cage free eggs and meat that is raised without antibiotics or growth hormones), and/or ecologically sound (organic).

To learn more about the Real Food Challenge, visit:

Join Mason students working on a Real Food campaign.

And to get involved with the Mason Real Food student group, email

Zeponic Farms

Southside dining’s salad bar is now serving lettuce from Zeponic Farms, a local hydroponic farm Located only 15 miles away from campus in Woodbridge, Virginia. Zeponic Farms empowers the special needs community by employing two students from the Mason LIFE program, which provides students with disabilities a supportive academic environment here on campus as well as internship opportunities.

Read more about Zeponic Farms and their partnership with Mason Dining and Mason LIFE in The Washington Post article, “This farm in a shipping container is more than just a source of local produce”. For link click Here

To learn more about Zeponic Farms, visit their website at
and their video at

Sustainable Seafood

As part of Sodexo’s commitment to serving sustainable seafood, Mason Dining is proud to serve 100% sustainably sourced seafood in our dining halls. Our seafood is certified by two independently operated, non-government organizations: the Aquaculture Certification Council (ACC) and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

The Marine Stewardship Council is an independent non-profit organization that offers a certification program for maintaining healthy fish stocks and reducing ecosystem impacts of fisheries for wild-caught fish.

The Aquaculture Certification Council certifies compliance with the Best Aquaculture Practices standards for social, environmental, and food safety at seafood farming facilities throughout the world. The ACC conducts site-level inspections for waste-water sampling with sanitation, therapeutic and traceability control measures.

BioFuel Program

We recycle all kitchen oil waste (over 7,000 gallons annually). The oil is taken and used to create steam energy at a power plant, which helps reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Trayless Dining

We are trayless at all Mason Dining locations.


Every time a customer goes through a dining location and foregoes a tray, they save an average of one ounce of food waste. It also saves on water, time, energy, and detergent needed to wash the trays. At Southside, we save 1,500 gallons of water daily by not having to wash trays. Going trayless allows us to help the environment by reducing our ecological footprint.

Recycled Products

All of our facilities utilize 100% recycled content napkins with up to 65% Post-Consumer recycled content by fiber weight.

Food Waste Reduction

We reduce our food waste in several ways:

-Portion Control

-Rather than standard sized dinner plates, we utilize plates in smaller sizes and shapes in order to promote people being conscious of the food portions they’re taking and therefore waste less food.Through the use of these plates, we have reduced our overall food waste by 15%.

-Through the use of a SOMAT Food Waste Pulper and Dehydrator system at Southside and Ike’s, we can reduce the weight and volume of our food waste by almost 80-90%. The remaining material is an organically-potent, shredded, powdery-dry & sterile substance the makes a perfect addition to any composting or mulching effort.

Campus Kitchens

Students volunteer in our kitchen to recover pre-consumer food from our dining halls. They package the food and deliver it to people in need in our community.

For more information on Campus Kitchens or want to volunteer see link below

Check out the news story on our Campus Kitchen program!

Elimination of All Straws From Our Dining Halls

When Southside first opened, we were using 264,000 straws per year. We have eliminated the use of straws in all of our dining halls and have removed over 318 pounds of plastic from our annual waste stream.


The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. STARS® was developed by Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), an acknowledged thought leader that advances sustainability by providing invaluable resources, with broad participation from diverse representatives of the higher education community.

The STARS reporting program for colleges and universities encompasses long-term sustainability goals for institutions. The areas in which dining services contributes to Mason’s report are:

-Local food purchasing

-Lettuce and herbs grown on campus at President’s Park Greenhouse

-Portion control measures

-Trayless dining

-Numerous vegetarian and vegan dining options available daily at our dining locations

-Meatless Mondays

-Reduced trans-fat Menus

-All napkins are made with recycled materials

-Reusable Mug discounts at Starbucks: refills cost $1.25 including tax for regular coffee

-Composting efforts at Southside

Virginia Green

“Virginia Green is Virginia’s program to encourage green practices throughout the state’s tourism industry!”
All Virginia Green participants must have programs that address these environmental impacts: recycling, waste production, energy and water conservation.
Virginia Green Recognized Buildings on campus: Southside, Pilot House.


The following companies and organizations have made our programs possible:

Keany Produce
is our local produce distibutor.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)certify all of our wild-caught seafood as sustainable.

Aquaculture Certification Council (ACC) certify all of our farm-raised seafood as sustainable.

Whirley Drink Works is the company that manufactures our “Choose to Reuse” reusable containers.

Dar Pro Solutions is our vendor that picks up our used cooking oil and makes our Biofuel Program possible.

Somat Waste Reduction Technology provide the equipment used in Southside to shred and dehydrate our food waste.

Sysco Virginiais our main supplier for all of our disposable dining ware.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) are creators of the STARS program.

Virginia Green is a sustainability-minded state tourism organization.

Real Food Challenge is an organization dedicated to creating “a healthy, fair, and green food system.”

Campus Kitchens is a national leader in developing innovative food systems to relieve hunger through community service for students.