Food and Catering

The University is committed to delivering sustainable and nutritious food to all students, staff and customers to all our campus outlets. These commitments are mirrored by the Students’ Union within their shops and cafes.

Key highlights

  • We were proud to score 100% for 'Sustainable Food' in the People Planet 2023/24 League.
  • We're proud to be accredited as a Fairtrade University and to hold a gold Food for Life award.
  • Thanks to the launch of our disposable cup fee and reusable cup rental scheme in September 2023, reusable cup use has increased by 49.9%
  • Cafes on two of our three campuses are now disposable-cup free.
  • We offer a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian main meals available across our catering outlets

Our Sustainable Food and Fairtrade Policies outline our ambitions on the food on offer whilst taking action to ensure those producing the ingredients are treated fairly.

Sales data is monitored, and the policies are reviewed annually via the Sustainable Food Sub-Committee, reporting progress to the Sustainability Management Committee.

Our Caterers

The food at the University is provided by Grayson’s, Sodexo and Greenwich's Union. We also seek to use our buying power as a University to support local producers and businesses.

It is important to ensure we work with the best partners to deliver the most sustainable food that we can. To help this we have strict procurement requirements when we retender our catering contract (this was last retendered in May-July 2021). Our Invitation to tender requires: The Contractor/ Partner will as a minimum:

  • Re-accreditation with Food for Life Gold within 3 months of contract start date.
  • Commit to the university Sustainable Food Policy, Sustainability Policy, Fairtrade Policy, Carbon Management Plan from contract start date.

Every three months we meet with catering partners, key UoG staff including the sustainability team and student representatives to ensure that progress against the our Sustainable Food and Fairtrade Strategies are being met and ensure that progress is reported via our Sustainability Management Board and review. Catering is within the scope of our Environmental Management System and our caters on site operations and progress against Policy targets are audited. A case study of sustainable improvements made at one of our outlets, The Dome (Avery Hill) can be found here.

Our 2023/2024 Commitments

  • Increase our reuse rate throughout the catering outlets
  • Continue our disposable-cup free initiatives at Queen Mary and Pilkington

To maintain the following accreditations:

  • Fairtrade Foundation University
  • Food for Life Gold
  • Marine Stewardship Council Award for Sustainable Fish
  • Click here to find out more about these achievements.

Sustainable Food Initatives


The University is committed to using, selling and promoting Fairtrade products through all its outlets. Fairtrade is all about getting better and safe farming working conditions, and for us high quality, ethically produced products. Check out our dedicated Fairtrade Page to learn more, and get involved with our annual Fairtrade Fortnight event, illustrating the importance of treating farmers fairly.

Fairtrade Logo

Ditch the Disposable

Did you know that 2.5 billion disposable cups are used every year in the UK? What’s worse is that less than 1% of them are recycled!

With an inner plastic sleeve, disposable cups are difficult to recycle and are a commonly contaminated item in recycling waste streams.  Individual actions do make a difference.

We have two disposable-cup free cafes at Greenwich; in Queen Mary (Greenwich) and Pilkington (Medway) and from 2018 plastic straws and stirrers were halted from circulation.  We are asking all students and staff to pledge to ditch their disposables and bring their own reusable cups. In total, we we go through around 250,000 disposable cups a year at Greenwich and with a discount (10p) our current reusable rate is 16% of total sales (the national average is under 10%).

Please remember to always bring your reusable cup. If you don’t have your own cup, do not worry, there is a variety to choose from at each outlet! Only £2.95. A couple of students also created an innovative idea, The Reuse Race in 2018, whereby the more sales in reusable cups, the bigger discounts for the collective.

Reusable Display

Coffee Grounds

Don’t forget to check around the café, you may come across a small small signposted tray with bags of coffee grounds. Coffee grounds make excellent fertiliser for gardens, so please do take a bag or two. You can add the grounds to a compost bin or directly into the soil, and they can even help to keep the slugs and snails away. It may not seem much, but hundreds of bags will be used over the year, so this saves on waste and helps you to go organic in the garden.

Coffee Grounds

Water Fountains

The University has water fountains installed around its campuses as well as free water stations in all catering outlets. Look at our campus maps for their location.

Campus Growing Spaces

You can ‘grow your own’ at Avery Hill’s Edible Garden. Students and staff and welcome to volunteer and learn how to grow fruit and veg, make friends get some exercise and fresh air. Interested? –  Follow this link for more information.

Our Stockwell Street building also has large fruit and vegetable gardens that are tended to by students and staff and is part of our wider urban agriculture research.

We have beehives at all campuses with Avery Hill campus produced honey for sale at the Village Shop.

Look out for our orchard planted through support by the Orchard Project. It’s located across from the Edible Garden (below the tennis courts). Visit from July when the apple and pear and other fruits begin ripening. If you are interested in learning how to prune orchard trees then get in touch.

Edible Garden Beds

Make Your Change

As part of our Make Your Change Initiative you can make a positive difference through actions to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the university’s catering. With the meat and dairy industry producing 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, cutting down on meat consumption can bring huge environmental benefits. Global meat consumption has risen by 600% since the 1950s compared with a 160% population increase.

study carried out by Oxford University’s department of public health found that eating meat no more than three times a week could prevent 31,000 deaths from heart disease, 9,000 deaths from cancer and 5,000 deaths from stroke, as well as save the NHS £1.2 billion in costs each year.

If someone eating more than 100 grams of meat a day simply cut down to less than 50 grams a day, their food-related emissions would fall by a third. That would save almost a tonne of CO2 each year, about as much as an economy return flight between London and New York.  Greenwich’s catering suppliers now provide a larger range of vegetarian and vegan options and partake in meat free days during Veganuary and Green Week.  So why not try a meat-free day and even that one portion will make a difference. Read more here.

Meat Vs CO2 Poster