Friday, October 24

Noitalever: Eating on Campus

Hello, all!

I would like to extend a special welcome to anyone who arrived here via fakeplasticfish. Because of this new traffic, all of the less-plastic entries are going to be public instead of the usual friends-only content.

So, in my first post about plastic, I mentioned that I was not attempting to make any changes involving food at the time being. My logic was that I didn't cook for myself, so there was obviously nothing that I could do.

Why didn't anyone correct my completely erroneous logic?!?

It's okay, I have since corrected myself. I came back to school and began to notice all of the plastic involved in the food that I eat. I live on campus and have a meal plan, and part of this meal plan is a certain amount of money that has to be spent in special food places. I discovered this semester (now that I was looking for it) that a lot of the "Grab and Go" salads and sandwiches and cookies come packaged in plastic! Oh no!

In fact, it's worse than that. As I look around to find things to spend my must-spend money on, I cannot find any convenience items that are plastic-free! What is a girl to do?

I have taken three major steps in dealing with this issue.

1) I have given up plastic cutlery! - The main cafeteria here has plates and cutlery that can be washed and reused, but the cafeteria in the main academic building has all plastic cutlery. The plates and bowls are compostable (and they have a composter!), but the cutlery isn't. I have started to bring my own silverware. If I happen to forget, I use a pair of wooden chopsticks (also compostable).

2) I have given up all "Grab-and-Go" and convenience foods. - I can spend my money on sit-down-and-eat things, so I simply plan more time to do so. This is actually better for me, too. Totally unforeseen benefit, but I feel better from not eating on the run. This was a hard change, though, because I love sushi and Sour Cream and Cheddar Ruffles, both of which come in plastic of some sort.

3) I buy in bulk and bring my own bags. We have Win-Co here, which is the most amazing store ever. It is a chain grocery store, but it has bulk bins for practically all dry goods, including spices. I bring paper bags to put stuff in, and then I can store it in tupperware and recycled plastic containers (left over from before I quit buying plastic) when I get home. Win-Co also gives you a bag discount, so I save at least a quarter whenever I go. Small incentive, but every little bit helps.

Next, let's talk about Going Trayless.

Many college cafeterias have started "going trayless" - stopped putting out trays for students to use. Studies show that it takes a half gallon of heated water to wash each tray, and also the detergent and manpower. Additionally, a third more food is wasted when trays are used. This is because students naturally take less if they have to carry the plates themselves.

You may be skeptical about this half-gallon concept. Well, I used to work in the cafeteria and here's the logic behind that. We had an industrial dishwasher that we could run racks of dishes through via conveyor belt. Trays and their unwieldy-ness could only go through eight to a rack, and dinners usually run 700-800 students. That's one hundred rounds of dishwashing for trays alone! Wow!

My university has implemented Trayless Tuesdays, but I have given up trays altogether. I've noticed that a lot of students are doing the same - after a few weeks of going trayless on Tuesday, they've discovered that they just don't need a tray. Many students, however, view it as a huge inconvenience. I think they'll get over it. In five years, I hope that trayless is the norm and that students don't even think twice about not taking a tray.

Do you eat lunch in a cafeteria somewhere? Encourage your cafeteria to go trayless, at least one day a week. As we know, most change happens slowly. At the very least, try going trayless yourself.

Have a great weekend!

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