13 October 2008

It's Easy Going Green. No, really, it is.

Standing outside the dining hall today at lunch, I heard a number of interesting responses to the new, reusable take out containers. I feel that about half the responses were “FINALLY! What a great idea!” and the other half were a little more concerned with the change. I’d like to address some of those concerns at length here on the blog, before the reactions really take off:

1. “We already pay for so much! Why do we have to buy something else?”
This is true. You all DO pay for a lot of things, and as a former student I can understand being rather concerned with how expensive it is to be in college. However, it’s only $4. This literally only covers the cost of the container, the dining hall is not making any profit on this deal. In addition, your meal plans barely cover the cost of running the dining hall, and it really doesn’t make sense for them to keep buying case after case of throw-away containers when they can purchase one container for every student one time. Think of it this way: if they save money, they will probably spend it on improving the food.
2. “Why don’t they just give them away?”
If the dining hall gave away reusable containers, would you still bring them back? Or would you throw them away? I had one student suggest putting a cap on the number given out to each student, but there’s really no way for the dining hall to keep track of this. Remember, limited staff, limited budget. There’s only so much they can do to feed hundreds of hungry students three times a day.
3. “Can we throw them away?”
That would rather defeat the point, now wouldn’t it? But yes, if, in direct defiance of being environmentally conscious you would like to throw the containers away, by all means. It’s your money. Or possibly your parents’.
4. “Do I have to take it to class?”
Not if you drop it off in your dorm first. Otherwise, yes, you have to take it to class. Get a backpack. They aren’t heavy, I promise. They also won’t spill or break or leak like those disposable ones, and there are three advantages right there.
5. “It’s not fair!”
This one I’m almost not sure how to respond to. Is it fair to the dining hall to pay thousands of dollars every year so you can conveniently throw away a take out container? Is it fair to the environment to use enormous amounts of resources to make all those containers? Is it fair to the environment to keep filling up landfills? Is it fair to all the other people in the world who have to deal with pollution from landfills, and from plastics ending up all over the place, including disposable take out containers? I don’t think it’s “fair,” or respectful, to expect the people of this campus to hand everything to you on a silver platter (or styrofoam container), or to clean up after the many, many containers that end up littering the campus, nor to make the environment and the health and lives of all the people on this planet suffer so that you don’t have to carry a lightweight container with you to class. Many colleges don’t even have take out. Many colleges would just tell you to bring your own container, without taking the extra step of providing brand new containers that are exactly like the old ones but better.

This is a good change for our campus. Long have I heard complaints that we talk about going green without actually taking action. Well, here we are, finally going green, and we are all going to have to suck it up and get used to it. The planet is dying, whether you want to admit it or not, and there are many things you can do to help prevent this catastrophe. Most of them do not require a huge sacrifice on your part. I don’t think I need to explain to anyone that if the planet dies, we (people) die. We cannot live without a planet. It’s our responsibility as living beings to do our part.

The new containers are pretty awesome, anyway. They can go in the dishwasher, or the microwave, and you don’t even have to wash them if you don’t want to, you can take it back to the dining hall and they will do it for you. Though I wouldn’t recommend letting food sit around your room, it attracts bugs. They are also sturdy, durable, lightweight, and should last you forever. And seriously, it’s only $4. What an investment!

Thank you to all the students, faculty and staff who are embracing this change and who gave me big smiles as they walked by with their new containers.

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