Sustainable food in the restaurant

Sustainability is one of the core values of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. The restaurant wants to play a leading role by:

  • offering healthy, ecological and affordable meals with less animal proteins;
  • taking part in fair & local trade of seasonal products;
  • instilling awareness in visitors;
  • lowering energy-use and working on waste-reduction.

On a daily basis the restaurant serves about 4000 people, of which 1500 will have a warm meal. Since a large part of our ecological footprint is the consequence of our eating habits, measures concerning food sustainability are very necessary to lower the total footprint of our university. These measures include areas such as tracking products’ origins and waste-management.

Below you can find information about all measures taken:

How can you help to make the restaurant more sustainable?

Veggie and soy

On campuses Etterbeek and Jette

To produce one kilogram (2,2 pounds) of animal protein, multiple kilograms of vegetable protein is needed. To grow the crops from which these vegetable proteins are taken, an enormous amount of available farmland is needed. The harvested crops then also need to be transported over large distances to reach the animals they feed.

Secondly, livestock farming also requires a vast amount of artificial fertiliser and water. To gain one liter of cowmilk, you need no less than 1000 liters of water, whereas 200 liters of water are needed to produce 1 liter of soymilk.

And then there is also the effect of the large quantities of nitrous oxide, methane, phosphorus, heavy metals, nitrogen, and ammonia which are released during the lifecycle of a milking cow.

As you can see, apart from being a healthy and tasty alternative to meat and fish, a diet based on vegetable products like grains, pods or soy can make a huge difference in limiting our (water)footprint per kilogram of produced food.

By offering a wide selection of vegetarian dishes on a daily basis, students and staff can get to know meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh and seitan. On average 20% of the meals served in the VUB-restaurant are vegetarian because of these efforts.

In case of special campaigns (e.g. Days Without Meat) 25% of the consumed meals is veggie.

Sustainable fish

On campus Etterbeek

By offering fish with the blue MSC-certificate, the restaurant can be sure to only serve fish that was caught by a sustainable fishery.

This means the fishery has a limited impact on overfishing and avoids damaging marine life by adhering to strict rules of conduct.

For farmed fish like salmon, the restaurant has a pending application for the ASC-certificate.

Want to do your part in keeping our oceans healthy? Use the WWF fishguide when buying fish: this guide shows what fish is caught in a sustainable manner. You can download it here or get one at the GreenTeam’s office (M.010).

Wormburgers and the protein transition

On campus Etterbeek

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has been calling for years to give eating insects a chance. The restaurant of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel was the first institutional kitchen in Belgium to put insects on the menu!

Why eat insects, you ask?

  • Afbeeldingsresultaat voor wormenburgerInsects are extremely ecological and sustainable. They produce far less greenhouse gasses compared to livestock and need less food and water to be cultivated.
  • Food waste can be used to grow these insects.
  • The world population keeps growing and especially in developing countries this comes with a growing demand for meat. Using insects for food may be a solution here.
  • Insects are tasty, healthy and safe. Grasshoppers for example contain more protein and iron per gram compared to ground beef.

Encouraging to eat insects is also a part of working towards the protein transition. This is a (partial) transition from the use of mainly animal protein to the use of more vegetable protein and sources of protein such as insects, cultivated meat and algae. More info about the protein transition can be found here.

Fairtrade coffee

On campuses Jette and Etterbeek

Fairtrade: what and why?

Fairtrade is helping farmers and workers in developing countries to acquire a better place in the economic chain. For fairtrade this means they have to be able to live off of the work they do, and be able to invest in a sustainable future.

Fairtrade organisations fight for: 

  • More respect for human rights and the environment in countries where this is lacking;
  • Instilling awareness in the consumer;
  • Bringing ethical changes to conventional international trade.

By drinking Fairtrade coffee, you are helping:

  • producers to get a fair price for their product, to cover at least the expenses for production;
  • workers to get fair wages;
  • soil and water to be managed in an eco-friendly way by using decent irrigation systems and limiting the use of pesticides and artificial fertilisers;
  • to get organisations to commit to evaluate their activities and guarantee a transparent operation of their business;
  • producers to get a bonus which they have to spend on social or economic development projects (for example in education, health services,...).

Where can you buy Fairtrade coffee on the VUB?

  • In the Oxfam world shop VUB in the VUB-restaurant on campus Etterbeek (staff can do this through the PKC-accounts).
  • All coffee you buy in the VUB-restaurant is fairtrade. External catering companies don’t always use Fairtrade, so make sure to ask!µ
  • Is your coffeemaker connected to a fixed supplier? Ask him about his Fairtrade products.

Where can you buy Fairtrade coffee outside of the VUB?

  • Most supermarkets have Fairtrade coffee.


Fairtrade coffee can always be recognised by the label on the left.

More info about other labels on your coffee packaging can be found on (info only in Dutch & French, with images).


Biological agricultural products

On campus Etterbeek

The next step in the sustainability-project of the restaurant is to start using biological agricultural products. The companies supplying these products don’t use artificial fertilisers or chemical pesticides. Genetically modified organisms are prohibited and they pay extra attention to animal welfare, environmental care and environmentally responsible packaging.

Limiting (food)waste and sustainable materials

The restaurant is continually working on limiting all kinds of waste by regularly measuring the amount of (food)waste. Based on the results, measures such as reducing portions and using leftovers for soup are implemented.

The use of tap-water is actively promoted by reducing the sale of drinks in disposable containers (except for Oxfam drinks) and by the installation of free water fountains with glasses.

Since 2010, the restaurant has permanently banned plastic spoons and cups, aluminium containers and individual sugar, milk and sauce containers and replaced them with sustainable alternatives: sauce dispencers, sugar containers and milk jugs made out of glass, inox coffeespoons and porcelain cups for desserts. Other throwaways made out of petroleum derivatives (plastic) such as coffee mugs and stirrers were replaced by alternatives made from the waste of sugar cane.

What can you do?

Sort your tray

By sorting your tray in the dedicated zone in the VUB restaurant, you can help to make it more sustainable. Thanks to our sorting system, only organic waste reaches the kitchen. This waste is then fermented into biogas, which can be used as an energy source. The fermenting process is ecologically and economically more efficient than to process the organic waste as regular waste.

Take part in this process by following three simple steps:

1. Before you go to the sorting zone: place only the organic waste on your plate.

2. In the sorting zone: put drink containers into the blue trash bags, everything else (packaging, napkins, salt/pepper bags) in the black trash bags and leave the organic waste on your plate.

3. Also follow this process if you put your tray on one of the carts.

The restaurant staff is very grateful for your cooperation!

Cooking your own meal

Of course you can also cook your own meal in your student home, alone or together with some friends. 

Some tips for tasty vegetarian recipes and sources for sustainable products:

  • Vegetarian Times is committed to promoting production and consumption of vegetable food products, to replace animal products. Make sure to check out the wide range of vegetarian recipes!
  • Recepten4Seizoenen: (info only in Dutch & French, with images) an app for your smartphone to help you buy seasonal products.
  • Crioc: (info only in Dutch) a guide for sustainable food in Brussels. They offer an oversight of all bio shops and restaurants, supermarkets, markets, caterers and consumer groups with a sustainable character.