Sustainable UCL


Sustainable Food

We want to provide a healthy food offer that’s good for our staff and students and the planet; whether it’s in our catered accommodation, our campus cafes, bars and restaurants or at our events.

Healthy and Sustainable Food Policy

Our Healthy and Sustainable Food Policy ensures that the University meets high environmental and socially responsible standards for the food offered and operations, and encourages and promotes healthy eating amongst students and staff. 

Our Caterers

The food at UCL is provided by CH&Co. To find out the latest in sustainable food projects and menus on campus, follow @FoodatUCL on Instagram or visit foodatucl.com to learn more.

Our 2022/2023 commitments:

  • Delivered food and events (hospitality) don’t use disposables as standard
  • Maintain the majority of our hospitality as #PoweredbyPlants (vegetarian and vegan as default)
  • Continue to trial CLUBZERO, our coffee cup deposit scheme
  • Ensure that 50% or more of our food offers provided are vegetarian or vegan
  • Ensure all our standard tea, coffee, bananas, chocolate (confectionary, cocoa powder, drinking chocolate) and sugar are Fairtrade certified.
  • Provide carbon labels on the bulk of the food we make in-house to allow consumers to make informed choices
  • Maintain 3 stars in the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) Food Made Good award in 2023

What we already do

  • 3 Start symbol for UCL sustainable food accreditation
    UCL achieved 3 stars out of 3 in the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) Food Made Good award, and will recertify in 2023. The accreditation is the world gold-standard in sustainable catering. 
  • In a joint partnership UCL and UCL Union, UCL were awarded the 1 star Fairtrade University and College Award, following a student-led audit in 2022.
Operation and Food Waste
  • All vehicles are electrically operated
  • Food waste is tracked, monitored & reduced
  • Unsold food or hospitality leftovers are given to Zero Food Waste UCL to minimise any food waste
  • All used coffee grounds at UCL are collected by Bio-bean, who process it into biofuel.
Powered by Plants
  • At least 50% of all menus are vegetarian and vegan across catering and accommodation
  • Hospitality (delivered foods and events) service is vegetarian and vegan as standard, meaning our brochures and set menus do not contain meat
  • Actively reduce meat content in our meals to support sustainable food consumption
  • List vegetarian food first on menus above meat-based choices, and price it at a lower price
  • UCL hosted the launch of WWF Future 50
  • UCL is a top 20 vegan university by PETA.
  • Not serve any products on the red list of the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) Good Fish Guide ‘fish to avoid’.
  • Only buy free range eggs All menus utilise seasonal
Ethical and Sustainable Food Sourcing
  • Fairtrade Circulo Coffee is sold in UCL outlets and hospitality as standard.
  • Smaller roasters who operate a ‘Direct Trade’ model are featured on campus
  • All Bananas sold at UCL are Fairtrade. UCL’s most popular chocolate choices are Divine and Tony’s Chocolonely, which are both Fairtrade.
  • All meat is Red Tractor Farm Assured or sourced from suppliers who can demonstrate equivalent welfare standards.
  • All fish served in meals is rated 1-3 by the MCS e.g. as ‘good fish to eat’.
UCL Sustainable Food Working Group
  • A pan UCL group, consisting of representatives from UCL caterers, Sustainable UCL, Union and Student Societies, which enables sharing of best practice and collaboration opportunities.
  • Email SustainableUCL@ucl.ac.uk to find out more.
Reporting and Communicating

UCL’s main catering provider, CH&CO, report progress against the policy aims, targets and KPIs, via monthly, quarterly and yearly reporting mechanisms, which are communicated to senior management.  A public quarterly report is published on this webpage. See our latest report here

As part of the contract, UCL will commission an external catering consultant to conduct a full independent review of the contract performance, which will include all sustainability KPIs and this policy.

See below some of UCL’s sustainable food initiatives



UCL and UCLU commit to using, selling and promoting Fairtrade products through all of our outlets and relevant activities.

Turning coffee waste into fuel

Turning coffee waste into fuel

UCL has partnered with alumni company bio-bean to reduce our coffee waste and to further research in the area.

Ditch the Disposable teaser

Ditch the Disposable

To save 1 million single-use cups going to waste every year at UCL, disposable cups are now priced at 25p.

Community garden at MMSL

Community Food Growing

Get involved with some of our food growing projects.


Water fountains

Find out the locations of UCL's water fountains with this map.

UCL Powered by Plants

UCL: Powered by Plants

Find out about UCL's campaign to make all events and meetings 100% vegetarian.

Student and Staff Projects

We are always interested in staff and student’s ideas on sustainable food, and happy to support individuals and groups, whether it is a Living Labs research project or a new idea or product. The Sustainable Food Working Group is a perfect platform to present an idea and get feedback and thoughts from across UCL.

Some recent projects include

Rice Inc.

In 2019, UCL began buying rice from Rice Inc, who are now called Paddi. Rice Inc was founded by UCL students. Their concept strives to eliminate food waste, promote sustainability and bring food security, by helping farmers nearly double their income from recovering rice which would otherwise be lost. UCL Innovation and Enterprise supported their idea, which went on and won the 2018 Hult Prize challenge, including $1million funding. Read their story here.  CH&Co will continue to buy and use their rice in UCL meals.


CH&Co have had discussions with Milids, set up by a UCL student, who want to produce coffee cup lids made from grains, thus reducing plastic waste. CH&Co have offered insights into a catering provision.


Two student who were members of UCL’s Vegetarian and Vegan Society,  Aashish Khimasia and Elena Bashkova, founded UCLFood4Thought, to deliver the F4T campaign on UCL campus. They calculated and analysed the carbon footprint of UCL’s catering food purchasing. This baseline and the students support will be utilised to create carbon footprinting of meals in the refectory, in partnership with Foodsteps.


In 2019, Sodexo partnered with the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE), as four students conducted a living lab project on of single use plastic in the catering industry, using the refectory as a test bed. The project focused on the elimination of plastic cling film. Sodexo achieved a 28% reduction in cling film use, by adopting the measures suggested by the students: Replace open boxes with click close boxes Use cloth covers for tray and food trolleys instead of wrapping film, Increase the training and awareness