SunDial succeeds in reducing waste through Green Dining Initiative

Becky Tener and Becky Tener

A suspect in the SunDial’s Green Dining Initiative was busted last month. Freshman Keith McBrayer was found using a glass plate, real silverware and eating in – he was caught ‘green-handed.’ McBrayer was participating in the Sundial’s Caught Green Handed: The Green Dining Initiative to help make the dining hall more environmentally friendly. He was one of over 100 students who won a green water bottle for being caught making greener choices. McBrayer said he usually tries to use real plates and silverware so he thought it was exciting to be rewarded for doing it.’ ‘ ‘ ‘I don’t want to be wasteful,’ he said. ‘So I try to make better choices.’ Eliminating waste and finding ways the University can save resources and money is why the Green Dining Initiative was started, said Nick Hennessy, the University’s sustainability coordinator. He said he helped the SunDial make some changes to be more environmentally friendly by using more recycle bins, encouraging students to eat in and use real plates and silverware. ‘They made great progress,’ Hennessy said. ‘Once people knew what the procedure was, there was a clear change.’ Hennessy said he was surprised how quickly the staff and students embraced the initiative and took it seriously. ‘I was happy to see how many creative ways the employees tried to educate people as they came through the lines,’ he said. ‘Because learning firsthand is the key.” One of the ways employees persuaded students to choose the greener option was in the food lines. After they said what they wanted, the employees would ask, ‘You want to go green with that today?’ ‘People wanted to know why [they were asked] and it prompted them to learn about the initiative,’ he said.’ Going green in the food lines, according to Hennessy, involved using glass plates and not getting food to-go. ‘Many of the employees got students to change their mind and switch,’ he said. ‘ One place Hennessy said he was shocked to see change was the newly enforced recycling of steel cans in the kitchen. ‘ ‘I had to go everyday [to empty the bins] because they were full to overflowing,’ he said. ‘They used them that much.’ Not throwing those cans away also saved money because it lessened the cost of taking waste to the landfill, Hennessy said. The SunDial can also make money from recycling steel because each pound is worth eight cents. Hennessy said a recycling container holds about 25 pounds and if every dining hall filled theirs’ up as much as the SunDial, it adds up. The SunDial was able to fill 29 containers, 696 pounds in all, earning about $60. Hennessy also said students recycled more, using two more containers on both sides of the Dial for plastic. They also decrease in use of napkins, to-go containers, paper cups and plastic silverware. Through the Green Dining Initiative, the SunDial was able to cut down on supply cost by .5 percent, which equals about $500 a week in savings. ‘That might not seem like a lot, but $500 multiplied by four weeks in a month, multiplied by 9 months ‘hellip; and then also taking into consideration the other dining halls on campus and the Union, the numbers could become significant and there is obviously something very worthwhile to pursue as far as actual and potential cost savings,’ he said.’ Ryan Czech, the SunDial food service coordinator, said he thought the initiative went well and many students learned from it. ‘People became more aware of certain items and if they were using things that could be recycled they would,’ he said. ‘But people got into it when they found out we were giving out a free bottle.” Czech said he noticed students going the extra mile to be more green like picking things out of the trash that could be put in a recycle bin or getting frustrated when there was only plastic silverware offered. Czech said the new challenges for the SunDial are to keep going green without a contest motivating students and finding new ways to make the Dial more environmentally friendly. Some of the changes he plans to make are using energy-saving light bulbs and more recyclable to-go containers. ‘We’re doing different things to see what we are using, what we can do differently and what we don’t need to have,’ he said.’