Temple of Zeus has long been a social hub on campus, bringing together students from all over the College of Arts and Sciences with its famous soup and striking statues. Now, it has also become a hub for sustainable eating.
The restaurant has a long history on campus. Established in 1964 as a coffee and donut stand, Temple of Zeus moved to the Klarman atrium in 2016, from its original location in what is now Kaufmann auditorium. Zeus — as its affectionate regulars call it — is increasingly serving locally sourced, plant based foods on reusable plates.
Those looking for vegan and vegetarian options — which are more sustainable than the high carbon footprint of animal products — can find them at Zeus.
“Our chef Nyima invented the BLTease, which is a sandwich filling made of a combination of cheese and tofu, as a vegetarian substitute. It’s a cult classic,” said Maggie Gaus ’21, a Zeus staff member.
Zeus sources some of its baked products from Ithaca Bakery, another sustainable local business — it has two solar electric systems installed, an initiative started in 2004.
“These systems do not provide all our power but, at this point, they do what we are able, and some renewable energy is a lot better than none,” according to its website.
Not only does Zeus work to provide sustainable food options, the restaurant also works to reduce waste from single-use food containers, such as disposable coffee cups.
“Zeus is trying to do what it can to diminish the use single-use items, and hopefully that trend continues around campus with more opportunities to choose a reusable or more environmentally-friendly option,” said Isabela Arocha ’22, another Zeus staff member.
If students bring their own mug rather than buying a to-go cup, there is a 46-cent discount.
“I like that you get to help sustain the environment and you get cheaper coffee,” said Gavin Clarke ’21, a regular Zeus customer. “There is no downside.”
Zeus offers reusable cups, mugs and plates for eating on-site — just one of the few on-campus cafes with that option.
Student workers are impressed with their employer’s sustainability efforts, sometimes even in comparison with previous workplaces at Cornell or elsewhere.
“I have worked at a dining hall, and while the standards are pretty high [for sustainability] there too, Temple of Zeus is more progressive,” said Jeremiah LaCon ’21, a Temple of Zeus employee.
According to LaCon, Temple of Zeus employees compost food waste as much as possible, and discussions of sustainability are common among staff.
“The staff is pretty conscious of the environment,” LaCon said.