A week without waste

A firsthand look at eating waste-free at Quinnipiac

By on April 3, 2018

Erin LeDrew | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
The word “sustainability” seems to be thrown around a lot these days. It’s painted on the wall of the café and it lines the single-stream recycling bins in nearly every building on campus. What is the Quinnipiac administration doing, and what can we do as students, to reduce the amount of paper and plastic we throw away?

So many items come in packaging, and if they don’t, the quick grab-and-go mindset, on top of busy schedules, has us reaching for plastic utensils and take-out bowls at every meal. I wanted to see how difficult it would be to use only reusable options, so I tried to go one week without creating any waste in the café.

Going waste-free eating at Quinnipiac posed a few challenges. The first came with time management. If I was in a rush, I wasn’t eating. Two days of the week, I had a fifteen-minute gap, and unless I wanted to walk to the College of Arts and Sciences with a ceramic bowl, a banana was going to serve as lunch until I had more time. This turned out to be a lot more frustrating than I thought it would be, considering it’s a rarity that a college students with packed schedules can sit down in the cafe for 20 minutes for each meal.

Moreover, stopping workers who were already reaching for a paper bowl, turning down a smoothie when I couldn’t get it in my opaque Starbucks cup and explaining to confused cashiers on York why I had a bowl from my dorm room on the scale came with its own awkwardness. Workers have long days and no one wants to cause a scene when the cafe is flooded with people at 12:15 p.m.

Another huge challenge came with location. I live on York Hill and I avoided eating at the York Hill cafe all week. If it hasn’t ever been brought to your attention, the York Hill cafe only offers plastic utensils and other disposable meal items. For this, I had to bring all of my own tools. Yes, I walked through the cashout line with a bowl and utensils from my own dorm room. Yes, the workers definitely thought I was a bit eccentric.

Still, I survived. I ate a week of meals and I didn’t waste away or catch any germ-related illnesses. It made me more innovative and probably helped in retrospect with portion control; since eating was much less convenient, I only went when I was really hungry. In terms of price, I thought I would be spending more, but I actually ended up spending less than I normally do. Most days I spent around 12 dollars.

It is possible. There are options for students to be more waste-conscious. Still, our dining system has to make changes (for example, expanding reusable utensils to York Hill cafe) if we truly want a sustainable future for our campus. Small changes can snowball, and if we promote a sustainable lifestyle on campus, students may take that into their own lives when they graduate.

 

Breakfast

I’ll grab a granola bar— wait, no— that comes in a wrapper. A smoothie! No, they come alongside plastic straws and cups (you cannot get your smoothie in non-transparent reusable cups; I tried). Oatmeal. Usually, I would go for an Au Bon paper bowl, but instead I go for the ceramic salad bowls (not without a couple confused looks my way). There were more options than I expected for this meal. As long as you snag a reusable plate, you can grab bread or bagels to toast, or omelettes and pancakes as long as you specify a plate “for here.”

 

Erin LeDrew | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
Snacks

This is not something that most college students want to dedicate a lot of time to. Unfortunately, granola bars, smoothies and chips may all be quick options, but the waste they come in is unavoidable. You can go for the obvious option of apples, bananas or other similarly prepackaged-by-nature options. For variety, I would go with a ceramic bowl with fruits or veggies from the salad bar or find options at the yogurt bar. Yet again, not without some confusion when I went to pay with a giant bowl to weigh my grapes.

 

Caffeine

At college, this is an essential food group. Luckily, it turned out to be the easiest of all. Starbucks will fill up a reusable cup or mug (which you can conveniently buy with meal plan money) with whatever you like. If Starbucks is too crowded, you can bring your mug to the café and fill it up yourself. No waste, no worries.

 

Lunch and Dinner

I noticed that this challenge offered up one main hurdle: a lack of variety. My go-to’s for these meals were from Create Global and G8, but anywhere with ceramic plates was a safe bet. For the avocado lovers of the world, you can grab bread from the sandwich station, toast it, and top it with guacamole from Sono, and you have avocado toast.

 

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