What we eat affects our bodies and our personal well-being. It also effects the well-being of the communities and ecosystems where the food is produced and sold. Buying locally, eating lower on the food chain, and being conscious of food waste can change your health and the health of your community for the better. Simple dietary choices can support your local economy, reduce your carbon footprint, and greatly reduce the amount of waste you produce.

University of Richmond Dining Services continues to be a strong proponent of sustainability on campus. Get an overview of sustainability and dining in our food fact sheet. Read more about sustainability in campus dining here.

Food and Environmental Justice

Food deserts are frequently found throughout low-income areas, particularly in predominately Black and Hispanic communities. A “food desert” is any area with limited access to affordable, fresh food. People living in food deserts are more likely to experience health issues like obesity and diabetes. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, based on information from the USDA, 60,545 Richmond residents lived in a food desert in 2015.

Eat Well and Be a Green Spider

Read more below about how you can make more sustainable choices when eating on campus, off campus, and when cooking for yourself.

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  • Eat Local and Seasonal

    When fruits and vegetables must be transported over long distances because they do not grow in your region, or are not in season where you are, it has a huge environmental impact. Buying locally grown produce reduces transportation related emissions and provides the opportunity to support farmers that use environmentally friendly practices. Beyond produce, buying locally-produced meat means you can choose farms that raise animals humanely and treat the environment well. Any time you shop local, you also support small business and help your local economy.

    You can view a list of seasonal produce in Virginia here. There are number of groceries stores and farmers markets close to campus that provide access to locally-grown produce and meat, including the St. Stephen’s Farmers Market, RVA Big Market, South of the James Farmers Market, Ellwood Thompson’s, Little House Green Grocery, and Belmont Butchery.

  • Choose Organic

    Pesticides are dangerous to human health and the environment, and some genetic modification can have a negative impact on environmental stability. You can find a list of fruits and vegetables that usually contain the most pesticides here. You may want to consider buying those items organic.

  • Be Mindful of Your Seafood Choices

    Many species are severely over-fished and we are consuming seafood faster than fish, mollusk, and crustacean populations can replenish themselves. Check out the consumer guides from Seafood Watch about which types of seafood are good choices and which should be avoided. When shopping or eating on campus, choose dishes that feature seafood that is not being over-harvested and ask where your seafood is coming from. Consider shopping from local seafood vendors like Yellow Umbrella, Bon Air Seafood, or Capt. Greg’s Seafood.

  • Consider Eating Less Meat

    Reducing the amount of meat you eat is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. If the entire U.S. did not eat meat or cheese for one day a week, it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road, according to the Earth Day Network. Not all meats have the same environmental footprint. Raising cattle and sheep negatively impacts the environment to a greater extent than raising chickens or turkeys.

    Consider choosing certain days or meals each week to eat vegetarian and commit to reducing your environmental impact through your dietary choices. Choose locally grown food when you can. Where your food comes from and how it was produced also have an environmental impact.

  • Eating on Campus

    -Go trayless in the dining hall. Approximately 137 pounds of food are kept out of the landfill every trayless day. Skip the tray and help us reduce food waste on campus!

    -Start out with just one plate in the dining hall, you can always go back for seconds. This helps prevent food waste.

    -Take advantage of the reusable to-go boxes in Heilman Dining Center, and remember to return them to be washed when you’re done.

    -Bring a reusable bottle or thermos with you to avoid using disposable bottles and cups.

  • Eating off Campus

    -Choose local restaurants and restaurants that focus on local produce.

    -Bring your own to-go container for leftovers to avoid using a disposable container and reduce waste.

    -Pick vegan or vegetarian options.

    -Choose tap water rather than bottled water.

  • Cooking for Yourself

    -Buy local, seasonal, and organic.

    -Buy in bulk. This is often more cost-effective. Talk with your family or roommates about what you use the most and work out a plan to buy in larger, cheaper quantities.

    -Meal plan before you shop to reduce food waste in your household.

    -Bring reusable bags when shopping.

    -Where possible, cut out processed food. This reduces the resources used to produce and package food.

    -Compost your leftover food.

    -Utilize reusable cups, utensils, plates, bowls, and napkins.

    -Run your dishwasher only when it is full to save water and electricity.

  • Consider growing some of your own food

    Growing your own food is a great way to affordably get a lot of produce, and when you grow it, you know exactly what fertilizers or pesticides are or aren’t used on it. If you don’t have a yard to garden in, consider taking advantage of the organic campus community garden or one of the many gardens around the city.

  • Get involved with nonprofits working on sustainable food in Richmond