April 2020 - Sustainability Champion of the Month: Clint Jeffries

April 13, 2020

By Sara Ford Oades and Alessandra Álvares 

Clint Jeffries in front of Crown/Merrill Dining Hall

Clint Jeffries, Assistant Director of UC Santa Cruz Dining, is being recognized this month for his pertinent sustainability work in the dining halls and beyond. Prior to his current position as Assistant Director, Clint was UC Santa Cruz Dining’s Sustainability Manager and has long been a sustainability advocate. He has overseen numerous sustainability initiatives in Dining, including certifying all Dining locations as green businesses, promoting student education and improving operations around food waste reduction and recovery efforts. Thanks to his dedication, many innovative and impactful sustainability practices are now accepted as business as usual at UC Santa Cruz. His work has even been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)! Learn more about Clint and his successes in our interview with him.

What does sustainability mean to you?
It's doing what we can to have a positive impact on all aspects of our environment, resources and our community. 

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you came to UCSC.
I graduated from UCSC in 2000.  I came back to campus in 2004 when UCSC Dining was a brand new department.

How did you become interested in waste reduction and sustainability?
About two years after starting here as a manager in dining I had an opportunity to attend the UC Management Skills Assessment Program. As part of the program, I had to create a proposal. This was when Green Business Certification was just beginning in the Bay Area and Santa Cruz County was thinking about implementing it. I took on Green Business Certification as my project. This incorporated all aspects of sustainability including pollution prevention, water conservation, energy efficiency, and waste reduction. From there I helped Dining work on sustainable food procurement, composting, etc. and I never stopped working on it.

What is your role in your current position and how did you begin to incorporate sustainability practices at work?
Since beginning with Green Business Certifications, we were able to get every dining location certified. In my current position as the Associate Director for Dining, we have been able to continue to work with our entire team on the importance of sustainability in all of our functions. Every ingredient we look to purchase we see if we can get it to align with our Real Food goals. As a team we work on how to reduce waste, use green chemicals, and we are part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, etc.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented UCSC with an award for our waste reduction efforts that you spearheaded. What do you attribute the success of these efforts to?
This was a team award based on everyone's efforts. We got this award for source reduction for generating as little waste as possible. To do this takes all of our staff working towards the goal, including preparing only what is needed, properly filling out our production records so we can track how much is needed of a certain item. We then use that data for the next time that item is scheduled. We try to utilize any food that may have been overproduced in different dishes. We now also donate over produced sushi, sandwiches, etc. from the retail locations as well as items from Catering to the Cowell Coffee Shop for the Peoples.

Are all Dining Halls still Green Business Certified? Did this go away with the recycling contamination crisis? If so, what can be done to rectify that?
Yes, all dining locations including the PERK coffee carts, Dining admin, Terra Fresca, Catering, Oakes Cafe, all other cafes and dining halls are still currently certified as Green Businesses. This has required recertification multiple times over the years. With the recycling issues, we worked with the Sustainability Office, Grounds department and the City of Santa Cruz and made sure that in Dining we were able to identify exactly what changed in terms of what the city can now accept as recyclable. Our student Sustainability Coordinator worked with each of our locations, we re-trained our entire staff and student employee team and we were able to get Dining loads recycled again as quickly as possible.

What do you see as the future for sustainability in UCSC Dining services?
I see us finding a way to achieve the 40% sustainable food goal at least. I see us working better with vendors on how things are packaged. We can't just simply recycle things like we used to so that will be important on how we receive ingredients and supplies to truly achieve zero waste. As technology advances, we will see more energy and water efficient kitchens, etc.

You have been a supporter of Slugware, can you explain that program and how Dining services has expanded sustainability outside of its own normal operations?
This was a program we worked on a few years ago and are starting back up again. Once events start up on campus again, colleges would use a supply of dishes similar to those we use in the dining halls. They would then bring them to us, we wash them and they would go back into use for college and student events. This will help reduce the amount of single use disposable dishware on campus, which is important. Even though the plates, cups, etc are "compostable" the compost facility that processes our compostable waste can not take large amounts of plates and cups as they run everything through a biodigester that generates compressed natural gas from our food waste.

What is your strategy to entice those who “have not joined” your sustainability efforts yet?
We were the first UC to roll out so many programs back when we started working on this around 2006 so a lot of this was new to those I was trying to work with. What I have found is that if you explain why something is important, then people tend to understand why change is needed. If you can get people to understand the reason, they are more likely to join in the efforts.