Cougar Woods Dining Commons Earns 4-Star GRA Certification

cougar woodsThe University of Houston’s Cougar Woods Dining Commons earned a 4-Star GRA (Green Restaurant Association) Certification in spring 2023, making them the only dining establishment in Texas with that designation. Cougar Woods Dining Commons is also the only dining commons at a Texas university with this rating.

The recognition is a long time coming for UH Dining Services.

“It’s a well-earned goal that we’ve been striving for,” said Susan Griffin, UH Dining Services Director of Wellness & Sustainability. “It’s really reflective of what the team has been pushing for to have a more sustainable food service operation. So, I’m proud of our group.”

Cougar Woods Dining Commons earned a total of 315.71 GreenPoints in the GRA assessment. The points are earned via different categories like water efficiency, waste reduction, food purchases, chemical and pollution reduction, and sustainability education.

The road to getting Cougar Woods Dining Commons a 4-Star certification started with UH Dining Services Senior Executive Chef Chad McDonald.

“He really wanted us to become 4-star certified and asked that I start investigating that, and so he was the impetus behind our going in that direction,” said Griffin.

The process involved a lot of tediousness and documentation.

“There’s quite a lot of factors that are involved, but just going in and researching and documenting and then going back and forth with our GRE rep as to areas we might, or could, improve upon,” said Griffin. “That was really the entire process of getting to four stars.”

McDonald adds that UH Dining Services had to be more detailed when reporting its purchases, which included everything paper goods, meat products, produce, and seafood.

On the journey to certification, Griffin worked with UH’s Sustainability Coordinator Liz Clark to inquire about Cougar Woods Dining’s building plans to gather the sufficient information.

Clark shared Cougar Woods building information with UH Dining Services team members, including square footage, submittals for building materials, the appliances in the dining hall, utility records, and energy and water efficiency information, like flush and flow rates in the bathroom and kitchen.

The 4-Star certification puts Cougar Woods in rare company in the U.S. It is one of 13 campuses in the U.S. to receive the designation.