Stanford Gets REAL With Sustainable Dining

Colleges and universities play a major role in forming the dining habits students will follow for the rest of their lives.

The push for campuswide sustainability and a fresh commitment to student health drive institutions to rethink their dining strategies. This might mean buying more food from local farmers and better educating students about their dietary habits.

Along those lines, Stanford University is the first higher ed institution in the nation to earn the United States Healthful Food Council’s REAL certification—an acronym for Responsible (nutrition), Epicurean (preparation), Agricultural (sourcing) and Leadership.

The council modeled its program after the LEED designation for facilities to denote excellence and innovation in the culinary field, says CEO Lawrence Williams, who founded the nonprofit in 2011. Other REAL recipients include Nashville’s Music City Center, Bareburger restaurants, Hint Water, and Root & Stem Catering and Events.
But REAL isn’t simply about going organic. “There is little transparency in the food service space, as opposed to prepared food, which plainly lists ingredients and calories on the label,” he says. “The program looks at responsible food sourcing, composting, refills and portioning, as well as sustainability.”

Colleges and universities play a major role in forming the dining habits students will follow for the rest of their lives, Williams adds.

“For most kids, this is their first time dining away from home and having complete autonomy over their food,” he says. “We encourage universities to offer food awareness courses in the same manner they offer alcohol and sex education to students.”

* Abridged from an article by Stefanie Botelho, University Business Magazine –



Green Roofs Grow on Multifamily Buildings in Major U.S. Cities

“There are lots of benefits to having a green roof—the short-term benefit is having a usable amenity space,” says Steven Peck, president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.

A growing number of cities are paying multifamily building owners to add green roofs to their buildings. That’s helping to motivate more owners to plant their rooftops.

Adding an extensive green roof that covers most of a building’s roof space adds between $10.30 and $12.50 per sq. ft. to the cost of the roof, compared to a conventional, black roof, according to a study by the U.S. General Services Administration. Annual maintenance for a green roof is typically higher than for a black roof, by $0.21 to $0.31 per sq. ft. Of course, those costs are for the most basic green roofs. Apartment developers can spend millions to create and maintain rooftops gardens for their residents, with plants ranging from trees to roses.

Some cities offer cash incentives to help owners pay for green roofs. In Washington, D.C., owners can get a rebate of the cost to put a green roof on their buildings, though the District of Columbia Department of the Environment’s green roof rebate program. The rebates start at $10 per sq. ft. of green roof, rising to $15 per sq. ft. in targeted sub-watershed areas.

The word “sub-watershed” is an important clue to the city’s motivation to pay for green roofs. Older cities like Washington, D.C., often have sewer systems that combine water from rainstorms with waste. During large rainstorms, the systems often overflow, effectively poisoning rivers and streams. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has ordered cities solve this problem, but it’s not easy. Chicago has spent over $3 billion starting in 1970 dig a series of massive underground reservoirs to keep toxic waters from flowing into Lake Michigan. The latest phase of the Chicago Deep Tunnel Project is now expected to be complete in 2029.

Infrastructure like green roofs can help by slowing rain water as it races from rooftops to sidewalks to storm drains. That gives a city’s water treatment systems time to handle the water from storms and prevents flooding.

Chicago is another city that provides cash incentives for green roofs, not surprisingly, since the Chicago Deep Tunnel project still isn’t finished. Portland, Ore.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and New York City also offer cash incentives. These programs are constantly changing as cities expand or start new incentives. San Francisco and Pittsburgh, Pa., are both on the verge of creating green roof programs.

“The best thing to do—the easiest thing to do—is call your local government and ask what incentives are available,” says Peck.

Local also require developments to create infrastructure to keep storm water from pouring off their properties. To please local officials, residential developers in many localities build storm water retention ponds and underground storage tanks.

Green roofs can be a relatively inexpensive alternative to other forms of storm water abatement. A green roof can save a building owner $14 per sq. ft. of green roof in local storm water fees or in the cost of other storm water improvements, on average, over the 50-year life of the roof, according to the GSA. The green roof also saves owners an average of between $6 and $8 in the cost of energy per sq. ft. of green roof over the 50-year life of the roof—mostly because the green roof shields the rooftop from the harsh beating of the sun during air conditioning season.

Washington, D.C., is the number one city for green roof installations according to the 2014 Green Roof Industry Survey, from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, the green roof and green wall industry association.

Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York City, Denver, Baltimore, Montreal, Seattle and Boston rounded out the top 10 cities when it comes to the number of green roofs. Not surprisingly, many of those are older cities with aging storm water systems that are prone to flooding, and therefore offer generous local incentive programs for green roofs.

* Abridged from an article by Bendix Anderson, National Real Estate Investor Magazine



Good Eats – Leveraging Real Estate

We’ve all heard about the awesome food at Google. In a survey of IT workers conducted earlier this year by Forbes contributor Kate Harrison, “Good Eats” was voted second in a list of favorite employer-provided amenities, right behind “Game Rooms” and ahead of “Physical Health.” Food has definitely become a new workplace perk, and not just in the tech world. More and more, clients across all industries are building amenity spaces that either provide food or support it. Just as most people gravitate to the kitchen at a party, office cafés and cafeterias—whether they are fully catered facilities, a place to heat up a homemade lunch, or merely a place to eat that’s not your desk—have become the heart of the office.

Leveraging Real Estate

Café and cafeteria spaces can provide a great way for companies to leverage their real estate. Unlike the quiet rooms, collaboration zones, lounge areas and other amenities that companies build as give-backs to employees in an ever-densifying workplace, these spaces don’t tend to get turned into offices and workstations to accommodate growth. Rather, the café/cafeteria now plays multiple roles. During the day, employees can use them to perform solo work, collaborate in small groups, and hold town hall meetings; after hours, they can serve as event spaces in which employees socialize and clients are entertained, or they can generate income by being hired out for events outside the firm. Whether building a café, grab ‘n go or cafeteria, designing these facilities is as much about science and business as it is art. It demands detailed knowledge of the labyrinth of codes, an understanding of the workings and circulation patterns of a professional kitchen and some expertise in inventing any kind of space, in any kind of building. Here are a few trends we have been watching.

Customer Experience

According to the NPD Group, a leading market researcher, 40 percent of consumers are loyal to a brand despite promotions offered by other establishments. In retail, this means every aspect of the design must represent the brand; in corporate and institutional food service, the focus is on capturing the culture of the organization. Together with good food, location and price, the artful combination of aesthetics, layout, circulation, service and other amenities creates a customer experience that draws people back time and again.

Variety and Healthy Choices

Just as we’re seeing a demand for a variety of activity-based space types and transparency in the workplace, we’re noticing that people want food choices too—and they want to know what they’re getting. As exhibition cooking, themed action stations and self-serve stations make labeling, ingredients and preparation transparent and accessible have become the norm, the design of these spaces has become more complex. Front-of-house display, delivery, occupancy planning, circulation and point-of-payment must now be seamlessly woven with back-of-house operations like shared preparation, storage, catering and administration.

Scalable Use

Eating habits are changing: breakfast meals are on the rise, lunch is becoming the largest meal and people are working (and eating) 24/7. Corporations and institutional cafeterias must plan for peak occupancy and varying degrees of access ranging from full food service to vending and grab and go, as well as to alternative use of the space for training, meetings and special events. For companies wanting to provide convenient access to food and beverage without investing in a cafeteria, honor-system vending is an option, and we’re seeing these stations co-located with break-out lounges and café seating. In either case, the design emphasis is on what’s visible to the customer.

Technology in food service is not only driving greater operational efficiencies but shaping layout and design. Back-of-house is all about assembly line setup and cook/chill systems, remote refrigeration and automatic ice delivery systems—all centrally controlled and linked to building systems. Customer-facing technology includes WiFi throughout, video display of news and entertainment, digital and Web menus, self-service kiosks and point-of-sale systems—all of which drive and determine layout, occupancy and circulation and inform the aesthetics that will enhance the customer experience.


Creating attractive, dynamic environments that deliver peak performance is a significant investment. Protecting that investment means specifying energy-efficient equipment and materials, and furniture and finishes that can endure not only customer use but the abuse of cleaning products and maintenance crews. Additionally, for a space to look good and perform well from day one into the future, the design must ultimately transcend trends and deliver functionality that can adapt to multiple uses and users over time.

A New Form of Networking

Ironically, one of the best endorsements for food-oriented spaces came from Ross Resnick, CEO and founder of Roaming Hunger, an online catering hub and mobile food (food truck) dispatcher. “We consider it a new form of networking,” says Resnick. “Senior executives are [standing in line] with the rank-and-file … It’s very democratic.” That’s an observation that applies as readily to the cafeteria line as it does to the food truck line. Whether congregating to grab a meal or a snack, seeking a change of scene, or spill over from fully-subscribed conference rooms, these spaces offer opportunities for serendipitous encounters that can promote collegiality and enhance the culture of the organization.

*Abridged from an article in National Real Estate Investor, by Fran Ferrone, Director of Mancini-Duffy’s Center for Workplace Innovation in New York City.

Slow Food USA’s – National School Garden Program

Every child deserves to grow up knowing where food comes from, how to grow, cook and share it, and how to be healthy.

Slow Food USA local chapters, members and volunteers build and maintain school gardens, lead cooking classes and work to improve school lunches.

In doing so, they hope to grow a generation of kids who love and care about food. And by becoming informed eaters and food lovers, they will help make a positive impact on the larger world of food and farming well into the future.

School gardens sounds like a fantastic idea in theory: give a bunch of kids, many of whom have no idea where their food comes from, the opportunity to tend to crops and watch as carrots, kale, and peppers pop up, ready to eat. Voila, they understand the basics of food production.

In practice, school gardens aren’t so easy to maintain. Volunteers dwindle, new teachers who don’t care as much about the school garden program arrive as the passionate teachers leave, and suddenly a once-promising garden is neglected.

In a partnership announced this week, Slow Food USA and Chipotle are teaming up to support 100 school gardens in 10 regions–in places including Denver, Austin, Boston, Louisville/Lexington, Phoenix, and San Diego–with in-restaurant fundraisers, grants, and marketing. “For the first time, staff will be dedicated to building the leadership and capacity of volunteers and school communities to support growth and sustainability of these gardens,” says Richard McCarthy, Slow Food USA’s executive director.

Slow Food USA and Chipotle have worked together for a decade on various school garden initiatives, and Chipotle has worked with other organizations on school gardens as well. But this is by far the biggest effort. Chipotle’s support of nearly $500,000 will include funding to build gardens, in-store fundraisers where 50% of proceeds go towards a garden project; and a marketing team of 45 people across the country who will pull together school garden volunteers and co-ordinate activities.

In the past, Chipotle has help with projects “sometimes direct to school, sometimes through the city, but when we added it all up we’re really putting a lot of money behind it. We thought it would be better to consolidate our efforts behind one organization,” says Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing and development officer.

One of the goals of the partnership, says McCarthy, is to come up with best practices for school garden projects. “We want to determine whether an army of volunteers can sustain gardens to change kids’ relationship with food whereby they become the advocates for their own food choices,” he says. “Where I am from in New Orleans, kids have no relationship with food because they don’t know where it comes from. When they pull a carrot out of ground, they see the connection between early investment and return on investment that tastes like no carrot they’ve ever had. It’s magic.”

For Chipotle, a fast casual restaurant chain that likes to highlight its sustainability bonafides, there’s also a marketing angle. According to Crumpacker, the more that kids understand where their food comes from, the more they’ll think about what they’re eating and how it was prepared. And the next time they want to go out for fast food, they’ll probably end up at Chipotle, because options elsewhere in the fast food landscape for food chain-conscious consumers are pretty bleak.

The Slow Food/Chipotle partnership will last for the next 15 months.

* Abridged from an article by Ariel Schwartz, Ariel is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more. For story ideas: ariel[at] 


Green Power: A Low-Cost Boost to Your Brand and Bottom Line

Running your business on green power can help the environment, but it can also be a low-cost way to build your company’s brand and its profits. It has certainly worked for Scott Nash and his small chain of organic grocery stores.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently released its most up-to-date lists of organizations that voluntarily chose to use clean, renewable electricity. Solar, wind, and low-impact hydropower qualify as “green power.” Corporate giants like Intel Corp., Kohl’s Department Stores, and Microsoft Corp. topped the list of the largest users of green power by kilowatt-hours, because of their massive footprint. However, smaller companies dominate the list of companies that power their company with 100 percent green energy.

More than half of the 1,300 organizations that work with the EPA in its Green Power Partnership are small businesses or organizations. Small businesses likely don’t have enough personnel to devote many hours to “greening” their business, but it doesn’t take long to participate in the program, says Blaine Collison, the Green Power Partnership’s director.

Related: Going Green Is Growing Important to Small Businesses

If you want to run your business on green power, you can install solar panels on your business’ roof or erect wind turbines in your business’ backyard. Great options, even if not so realistic for most entrepreneurs. The EPA’s Green Power Partnership is a more do-able approach: You call your energy provider and inquire about its green power option and ask to be switched over. And if your current energy provider doesn’t have a green option, check out the EPA’s online locator for one that does.

For slightly more money, you purchase renewable energy credits (RECs), which are effectively purchasing units of power that the energy provider agrees to obtain from a sustainable source. If companies purchase enough RECs to cover the amount of energy they use each, then the company is in effect running on green power, even without a wind turbine in the parking lot.

Running a business with clean energy has been a boost to business for MOM’s Organic Market, Nash’s grocery-store chain headquartered in Rockville, Md. “The customers know, the employees know, we know” about the company’s environmental concerns, says Nash. The company has made EPA’s list since it was first released in 2007 and has been part of the Green Power Partnership for even longer. “Yeah, it costs us a little bit extra to do these good things, but I think it helps our bottom line,” he says. Employee-retention rates are high and customers are more loyal, he says.

Related: 10 Ways to Green Your Retail Store

And, it’s not that much more expensive. For each grocery store, it costs an additional 2 percent to run on 100 percent green power, says Charis Egland-Smith, who runs MOM’s environmental programs. The 25-year-old chain has about 500 employees. Egland-Smith says the local rates for green power versus coal power are nearly comparable, and on occasion, the company has even gotten better prices for green power.

The big payback comes with the bragging rights. “For a small business to say ‘We are 100 percent green power,’ because their total electric loads are fairly small given that they are in fact a small business, the ultimate absolute marginal cost tends not to be very high,” says Collison. And “‘We are 100 percent green power’ is such a valuable message, that they find it is compelling.”

So compelling, in fact, that MOM’s Organic Market buys almost twice as much green power than it needs to run its stores. “We are offsetting somebody else’s dirty energy at that point,” says Nash. And then the store lets its consumers know what it is doing with in-store signs, social media and messages on grocery bags. It equates its energy savings to cars taken off the roads, for example.

* Abridged from an article by Catherine Clifford, a senior writer at

Winning the War for Talent

The “war for talent,” a term coined by McKinsey & Company in 1997, refers to an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees. Inherent to “talent,” in this use, is not a set of superior human resources processes, but a mindset that emphasizes the importance of talent to the success of organizations. The underlying assumption is that for knowledge-intensive industries, the knowledge worker is the key competitive resource.

Factors contributing to an intensified battle for the best employees include:

• Candidate pool shifts in the United States and Europe and increasingly in India and Asia, as the quality and size of the graduate pool grows year on year, with a mobile, globalized workforce that broadens employee base

• Changing demographics that increase demand along with decreasing supply—Simply put: there are fewer post-baby-boom workers to replace the baby-boom retirement in the U.S. and Europe (though this is not the case in most of East Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Central America, South America, or the Middle East).

In today’s war for talent, talent seems to be winning. Companies need to expand both knowledge and resources to compete. As every leader knows, thriving businesses produce optimal results with two key practices: hiring of the best talent and nurturing and managing these employees, providing long-term attractiveness as great places to work.


In summary, there are those companies that offer the best recruiting and retain

the best talent. Then, there are those companies that attract talent and have reasonable retention. Finally, there are those who do attract talent until that talent gets through the door of those who offer the best in employee amenities. So what does it take to be in the first tier as opposed to being an incubator or talent clearinghouse?

The Great Place to WorkInstitute® Trust Index® measures Credibility, Respect, Fairness, Pride, and Camaraderie as defining what aspects of the employer/employee relationship make for a great place to work. The principle is that without these base tenets in place, a substantial salary package on its own won’t ensure good retention rates. These employer attributes are actually more important to employees than salary in isolation. The takeaway for employers is that the work environment, space, culture, and employee amenities and convenience comprise a compelling overall package for prospective employees.


It may be that you have the best talent already. That your retention rates are great and that you have the very best products and service in your sector today. Thing is, that if all that is true today, it doesn’t mean that you will have all of those tomorrow. Look at Kodak (the Google of yesteryear), Blackberry (once the head and shoulder leader in smartphones), and even Yardley (the once industry leader in cosmetics). All came from different eras but all (you could argue) became complacent, and missed the changing customer demand. Above all, these companies didn’t have the right talent to spot these two fundamental flaws and/or develop the products as quickly as their competition.

Here are some questions to regularly ask of your business:

• What is our turnover rate in numbers of employees a year?

• What is the total cost of recruiting, training, and bringing each new recruit to 100 percent productivity?

• What is our current market position (revenues, customer satisfaction, innovation, products)?

• What is our talent index compared?

• What is our workforce demographic of today?

• What is the workforce demographic of tomorrow?

• What does our employee satisfaction survey tell us?

• What benefits and amenities do we offer today and what is the participation?

• What benefits could we offer with what business benefit?

The benefits of having a truly engaged workforce are well documented but the dangers of having a disengaged workforce can be catastrophic. The importance of having structured employee satisfaction surveys is an important health check for any business measuring survey participation with the overall satisfaction rating being key. The trick to these surveys is to understand, react with positive change, and learn trends for the future.


There are many examples of organizations that go that extra mile (or two) and the level at which your organization may want to go will be depicted by answering the following questions:

• How important is attracting the best talent?

• What is our current business cost at current retention rates?

• How would we benefit of having the best on our team? (Creativity, Product, Business Outcomes)

• What is the Return on Investment calculations that would apply to us?

• What are the benefits and amenities we want to offer?

• What is the journey and key checkpoint of measurements of success?

Creating a great place to work is no longer nice “in theory,” but today, for most companies, a core strategic imperative. If you aspire to be the best or want to maintain your number one position in your market, then making sure you attract and retain the best talent is absolutely key. You will be sure that your competitors, snapping at your heels, will be doing all they can to tempt the best-and-brightest from your ranks.


The range of potential workplace amenities is as vast as the imagination. I have witnessed everything from the convenient to the extravagant, from free bagels and free beer and wine on Fridays to bring your dog to work to “big idea” paid time off. I’ve seen complimentary grocery shopping and delivery and employers cleaning employees’ houses, workplace physician clinics in the workplace, and free food programs. The list is long, indeed, and never ending.

Referring to the Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, once you have attracted the talent (Physiological and Safety), the task is then to ensure that you are creating the right circumstances (Belonging and Esteem). However, at the top of the hierarchy, can you create an environment of self-actualization that delivers superior performance?


The Great Place to Work Institute® provides some metrics with being recognized as a great place to work:

• Best Companies perform more than two times better than the general market.

• Nearly one in three U.S. employees is seriously thinking about leaving their current organization.

• Two-thirds of college graduates said they would take a pay cut if they knew they were making a difference in their job.

• 91 percent of Millennials expect to stay in their current job for less than three years.

• On average Best Companies receive 47 percent more applicants for jobs than their peer organizations.

• Best Companies experience as much as 50 percent less turnover.

• Employees in high trust environments are twice as likely to talk about their employer with pride.

• A workplace that is fun is a much more attractive proposition to today’s emerging Millennial workforce.


There is a whole range of employee amenities available with different costs and benefits to your workforce. It is a critical element of the process to understand your workforce, demographics, likes, and dislikes, ensuring that the workplace and amenities match your current workforce and also your workforce of tomorrow. Older, more mature companies are dealing with their own organizational demographics, as they see the need to shift from an older workforce to attract tomorrow’s talent and superstars, requiring a very different workplace experience from that of the past. As the workforce demographic is changing, not only in terms of age but also in terms of country of origin, culture, and even religion, the workplace needs to be nimble and flexible enough to adapt and accommodate those changes.


The war for talent is real, and businesses need to cater to today’s needs by striving for a balanced team of diverse talent. An optimal team has performers at every level—superstars, journey men, and average, but steady-and-reliable performers. The most successful teams do not swap and change as the wind blows, but have a long-term commitment to the team and talent. The winning playbook is complex and less susceptible to a common denominator. The solution cannot be a band-aid, one-time hit approach. This is a journey and a long-term commitment with the destination being sustainable growth and success.

*Abridged from an article by Simon J. Elliot, Board Member of the British American Business Council.