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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Saklad: Growing Green-2-Go

Dartmouth has made progress in eliminating food waste, but must go further.

There are a million and one factors that play into deciding where to go to college, but for me one reigned above all others: location. Like many Dartmouth students, and particularly those involved in the Dartmouth Outing Club, I was drawn here by the White Mountains, the accessible rivers and the hiking trails that run right through campus. Hanover’s Main Street even makes up a small portion of the Appalachian Trail, and thru-hikers regularly stop for some company and a place to rest in Robinson Hall. Dartmouth’s natural surroundings differentiate it from hundreds of other schools that prospective students choose between. Members of this community recognize Dartmouth’s environment as an asset through green initiatives scattered all over campus. As always, though, there is so much more that students could be doing to show their appreciation for the College’s natural surroundings. Fortunately, the positive environmental change we need could spring easily from small amendments to our on-campus dining spaces.

Madison Sabol ’18’s Green-2-Go container program, initiated at Class of 1953 Commons last year, brilliantly decreased significant amounts of waste generated by the dining hall’s disposable takeout containers. Her idea not only helped save the environment, but also helped save Dartmouth Dining Services money that used to be spent on restocking disposable containers, allowing them to reallocate funds to continue buying local food products and paying their employees a living wage. With such a successful model to look to, the Green-2-Go container program should be implemented at other dining areas on campus. Although the kitchens at the Collis and Courtyard Cafés may not be large enough to handle an influx in washable material, by installing drop-off centers around campus, Green-2-Go containers could be deposited by students at convenient locations and then collected and washed in the ’53 Commons industrial kitchen.

During the transition to campus-wide use of Green-2-Go containers and for any remaining use of disposable containers after the program has been instituted, DDS should start using legitimately compostable waste products. While the takeout containers DDS uses now are technically compostable, the compost facility that Dartmouth uses only has the capacity to break down food waste. Since only the tops of the takeout containers can be recycled, the “compostable” bottoms must be sent to a landfill. These containers break down in a landfill faster than alternative plastic-bottomed container, but the elements necessary for them to turn into compost are not present. Instead, the containers release methane gas into the atmosphere while they decompose at approximately the rate of biodegradable products. Instead of contributing even more waste to a landfill, DDS should either switch to a composting program with the capacity to compost food containers or eliminate disposable takeout containers altogether.

In addition to food containers, Dartmouth students throw out countless plastic utensils and drink containers daily. Some students have continued a trend of bringing reusable sporks and mugs to dining spaces, but the majority continue to use disposable products and have no incentive to make a change. Fortunately, there already exists an incentivizing program on campus to get student consumers to consider the environment when making purchases. King Arthur Flour, a café run independently from DDS, offers students a 25-cent discount on beverages when they bring in reusable mugs. DDS could potentially institute a similar discount program, offering small discounts for bringing reusable mugs, containers and utensils. Although this may result in slight price inflation, the money that DDS saves on disposable cups and utensils would help to nullify the cost of instituting such an incentive.

Alternatively, DDS could establish a punch card rewards system for those students who bring reusable containers. If small discounts on food products were not enough of an incentive for some students to practice sustainability, more tangible rewards might be more effective motivation. In exchange for bringing mugs and utensils, students could present a card to be hole punched when they are checking out or swiping in. After a predetermined number of hole punches, students could redeem their rewards card for a free cookie or drink. DDS could both save on disposable cups and cutlery and significantly shrink Dartmouth’s environmental footprint by allotting less expensive food items to the rewards program.

Dartmouth already has models in place to successfully implement programs such as widespread Green-2-Go containers and sustainability incentive programs; the College just needs to capitalize on them. Using these established and successful systems along with a little innovation and collaboration, Dartmouth could appreciably decrease its environmental footprint and give back to the environment that constitutes one of this school’s greatest attributes. 

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