de Wolff: A New Approach to Sustainability

Dartmouth should change its policy regarding kegs.

by Thomas de Wolff | 4/29/22 4:00am

Any student who is even remotely familiar with fraternity basements during on-nights knows there’s one guest who is almost always present: cans of Keystone Light beer. Inevitably, these cans end up in the trash — take a walk down Webster Avenue on a Thursday or Sunday morning and you’ll see the aftermath of frats’ clean-up operations. When you consider the amount of beer that just one frat consumes in one night, the total number of cans used across campus each weekend must be enormous.

As College president Phil Hanlon reminded the student body in his Earth Day email last week, Dartmouth has adopted lofty goals aimed at improving the College’s overall sustainability efforts. But the waste that on-nights produce should give any environmentally conscious Dartmouth student pause. However, there is a solution that is not only better for the environment, but cheaper and safer for students as well. Fraternities should adopt a different approach to serving alcohol: kegs.

Using kegs instead of cases to serve beer would prevent binge-drinking. Cases of Keystone provide a faster method of distribution — it’s easier to hand out 30 cans of beer than it is to pour out an equivalent amount of beer from a keg. Using a keg means behavior that would result in heavy drinking becomes moderated instead. If it’s harder to fill multiple cups in quick succession because of constantly having to line up at the bar for refills, it’s harder to binge drink. 

Using kegs instead of cases to serve beer would also be more environmentally friendly — one keg holds around 165 standard cans of beer. That’s 165 cans saved from ending up in the trash. That’s not counting the cases themselves that end up there too.

Buying kegs rather than cases would be cheaper for frats. One case of thirty Keystones costs $17 at Stinson’s Village Store. One keg of Keystone costs, on average, $79. Serving 165 cans of beer from individual cases would set fraternities back $93.50 at Stinson’s prices. Considering that there are almost certainly more than 165 cans of beer consumed in one night at many fraternities, a switch to kegs instead of cases would result in huge savings for Greek houses.

With all this evidence in favor of using kegs, why have Greek houses not cottoned onto the idea en masse by now? One main obstacle to the adoption of kegs is the College itself. At the moment, Dartmouth’s Alcohol Management Program Policy states that kegs are allowed, but must be registered by 3 p.m. on the day they are to be used. This is an extra hassle for already-stressed social chairs to manage. They can avoid this hassle by buying cases of beer instead, which the College does not require Greek houses to register. If Greek houses do choose to register a keg, they are provided with keg tags. The Department of Safety and Security then uses these tags to track the use of kegs by each house. Overall, the added hoops to jump through and increased scrutiny from Safety and Security diminish the appeal for Greek houses to use kegs rather than cases.

How can the College simultaneously promote sustainability to its students but drive their dominant social spaces toward unsustainable behaviors? A correction is urgently required on the part of the Alcohol Management Program Policy. Kegs should not have to be registered —  instead, Safety and Security officers should ensure that whoever is in charge of the keg is 21 or older, just as they already do. This is not to say that using cases should be prohibited. After all, it stands to reason that the kegs —  being safer, more environmentally friendly and cheaper — would tend to supplant cases as the primary means for serving alcohol in basements if the College made their use less onerous for Greek houses. Dartmouth should want its students who are of legal drinking age to do so in a sustainable, safe manner. Allowing for the easier use of kegs in Greek houses is one sure-fire way to accomplish this goal.

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