Sustainability groups, Dining Services launch new Greenware Program

Merry May Ma | Contributing Reporter

The Office of Sustainability is introducing a new dishware loan initiative for on-campus events to reduce disposable plastic waste.

In order to use the program, event organizers have to fill out an online order form that details how many of each item their event will require, and the event’s date and time. The program currently has an inventory of 100 plates, bowls, cups and utensil sets.

The Office of Sustainability will contact the person who requested the dish-ware and assign a location for the person to pick up the materials. As soon as their event is finished, the person places all the used service ware in an assigned bag and returns it to the designated drop-off location.

Junior transfer student Jenny Fang proposed the program after having it at her previous university.

“For me, I am interested in environmental sustainability, and seeing so much plastic wasted really bothered me. You just eat on a plate for five to ten minutes and throw [it] away without thinking about it,” Fang said. “So, I wanted to tackle it. I reached out and copied what they did and changed a few things.”

Fang first contacted the Student Sustainability Board (SSB) in October through its online request form and after some consultation, SSB agreed to fund her idea.

“Sometimes a student can come up and say, ‘I have this idea to try to make the campus more green,’” SSB president senior Emma Waltman said. “For us, we can hear them talk, vote and work with them. If they want, we will give them money to make [the ideas] happen.”

The Greenware Program debuted at the annual Green Carpet Awards, which recognizes sustainability efforts on campus, Feb. 4. Fang wasn’t present at the awards, but was pleased by the positive reception.

“I saw some photos, and I was excited to see the event,” Fang said. “Hopefully, more people will think about [Greenware] and be excited about it, and I will further the program.”

Fang believes her program will help the campus cut down on plastic waste.

“It means less work burden on the workers who have to empty the trash cans,” Fang said. “Also we can reduce the landfills which will remain for thousands of years because most of the plastic we use doesn’t degrade. They are part of the world and our life.”

Cassie Hage, the Sustainability Manager in the Office of Sustainability, says the new program will enable students to act sustainably when eating.

“I am very excited to see an initiative that focuses on reuse get support from SSB,” Hage wrote in a statement to Student Life. “I believe that this program will enable all those who are seeking ways to reduce their waste to easily find a cost effective solution.”

Hage says the focus this semester will be on calibrating the program to the student body and making appropriate tweaks.

“In the first semester of the program, we will be able to gauge interest, build support and interest and scale up if needed,” Hage wrote. “We will focus on getting the word out, partnering with highly visible events to start to normalize their use, and work through any logistical challenges for getting the dishes where they need to be (and maintain a low loss rate).”

Part of the calibration process is determining how much funding is needed to spend on utensils. Fang says she’s currently in the process of acquiring more service ware for the program.

“If there is a lot of interest, we can get more funding to increase the program. Currently, we only have an inventory of 100 plates; so, we should increase the amount and get more funding,” Fang said. “Someone reached out to the office saying they had 500 cups that have the Wash. U. logo on them and they didn’t need them anymore. Now assuming we take on 500 cups, ideally we would have enough inventory to provide all the utensils that is needed for the entire campus for the future. And we won’t have to buy any; so, that means we can save money.”

Freshman Ethan Sauerberg, a manager for SSB, hopes the program will lead to drastic changes in the way the University manages waste.

“In my mind, the Greenware will fade out all the single-use items on campus,” Sauerberg said. “Hopefully, all the plastic water bottles will be turned into reusable bottles. And our Greenware products will replace to-go and eco-to-go boxes.”

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