Make the Change
I think my awareness of recycling started when I was a little girl because I do not remember a time where I did not find recycling important. My dad is an Environmental Lawyer, so the significance of keeping our Earth clean was instilled in me as a little girl. Fortunately the Green Movement has been on the rise, and more and more individuals, companies, schools, and communities are taking issues regarding the environment more seriously. Are we leaving a clean planet for our future generations? How will our actions today affect the resources that will be available in five, ten, twenty years?
When I started looking at colleges, one of the first things I noticed about DePaul was all of the recycling bins everywhere. I absolutely loved it. When I saw bright green recycling bins at each corner and water bottle refilling stations in each building, it was clear that DePaul University understood how their actions affected the greater community. I was excited once I decided to go to DePaul, and even more excited when I arrived on campus and learned about more actions DePaul is taking towards a greener campus. In the cafeteria there is a composting station, on the quad there are solar panels to power the lights at night, and the newest building on campus, Arts and Letters, is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Having all of these things on campus is so important, as DePaul students are reminded of the importance of each of our actions and all of the different ways in which we can live greener lives, creating a brighter future.
With all of this being said, I was completely shocked when I started eating lunch and dinner at the Student Center. I was stunned to find disposable plates, bowls, forks, knives, spoons, and cups at almost every food station. I saw an area for dishes to be cleaned… Why weren’t we using it?!
Not having reusable plates is extremely wasteful and unfriendly to our planet. With DePaul’s current disposable dishware, the amount of garbage created each day is massive. This waste is directly affecting our community, and the future of our earth. The sooner we can make the change to reusable dishes, the better. It is hard to believe that DePaul’s steps towards a greener campus do not already include reusable dishware since there are so many other green actions that are being taken, but there are several factors that play into this change that need to be addressed.
Chartwells, DePaul’s food service, is a really great company who takes their social responsibly and sustainability seriously. They serve seafood that comes from sustainable sources, socially and ecologically certified coffee, provide fresh yogurt and milk that is free of artificial growth hormones, promote certified cage-free eggs, purchase poultry produced without the routine use of human antibiotics, and buy local products to support family farming. They practice tray-less dining to conserve water, and encourage their customers to stop food waste. They focus on energy and resource conservation by implementing different programs, but unfortunately reusable dishware is not one of the programs they emphasize in all of the places they serve.
Why does Chartwells succeed in all of these green initiatives, but do not use reusable plates? There is an argument that says reusable plates cause too much water usage, but almost all dishwashers nowadays are energy and water efficient, so that argument will not last for long. While there will be an initial expense to purchase dishware, make sure the dishwasher and dryers are up to date, and hire a few more employees, these expenses will even out with the money DePaul will save from buying disposable products, and there are also grants available that could help with the investment.
Gresham Barlow School District in Portland, Oregon wanted to switch from throwaway Styrofoam dishes and plastic utensil to reusable washable dishes and utensils. They wanted to reduce their contribution to landfills, protect the environment, and save money. With a grant they received from Portland Metro for the initial purchase of the dishes and utensils they accomplished all of their goals. It only took a few years to recoup their investment in the reusable dishes, and now they are saving money each year from not having to buy the disposable dishes and utensils, on top of making a huge positive impact on the environment. This school district is also seeing reduced garbage costs, saving them even more money. It is clear with this case study that the switch to reusable dishware is a win-win.
I think this change is necessary for Chartwells and DePaul to make. The amount of waste accumulated each day in DePaul’s cafeteria, times seven days a week, times ten weeks in a quarter, times three quarters is catastrophic. With our compost station, we have already eliminated our garbage output exponentially, and if we switched to reusable dishware, our garbage output would drop even more.
The longer we continue to wait, the longer we continue to make a negative impact on the environment. Grade schools, middle schools, high schools, restaurants, businesses, and caterers all across the country are making the change to reusable dishes, so there is no reason that DePaul University cannot be the leader in change for Universities across the country. Making this change is simply the right thing to do for our community, planet, and future generations.