The College has implemented new single use, compostable takeout containers in Stav Hall in an attempt to allow for social distancing. The containers allow students to take meals outside or back to their dorms, but students have raised concern over the sustainability of this new addition to the caf.
“The compostable containers we are using are relatively affordable,” General Manager of Bon Appetit Traci Quinnel said, “and they are accepted by the college’s waste contractor, so they do not contribute to the landfill.”
However, other colleges across the country, including neighbor Carleton College, have developed a reusable to-go container program. This option provides students with a container to hold their cafeteria food, and once students are finished using it they can return the container and get a clean one for their next meal.
Many of the schools with this program have reported reduced waste levels and a positive impact on the overall sustainability of the school.
While this green program has become more popular across campuses, it requires a certain level of space and infrastructure. Spending time, energy and money to develop a reusable takeout program while the school is increasing their carbon footprint in several other areas may not be worth it.
“Transitioning back to reusable dishware would likely have a negligible impact on the school’s overall carbon footprint,” said Abby Becker ’19, executive leader of St Olaf’s Climate Justice Collective (CJC). “Focusing a lot of time and energy on an issue like dishes can take away from the bigger picture.”
The CJC primarily focuses on advocating the College divest from fossil fuels.
Becker does have advice for students who seek to limit their own personal carbon footprint. She recommends packing a bag with reusable cutlery, using their own salt and pepper shakers and reusable water bottles.