Wasting Away: Conservation at Commons

History class is in ten minutes. Juggling your backback, essay, and a bowl of Lucky Charms, you fight tooth and nail to grab something in Commons before your hunger pangs start to set in. This scene is a familiar one for the ever-busy PA student body. Many just grab a Commons bowl or plate and run to class. Often though, this plate or bowl becomes a permanent fixture in a dorm room or hallway or is discarded in a various public place. “I know a lot of people take cups and plates out of Commons and then you’ll see them in GW,” said Emily Anderson, ’07. “One of the major efforts that I want to ask you [the students] to help me with is we spend a lot of money on china that people take out of Commons and don’t return. Ask people to begin to return those,” said school nutritionist Aggie Kip. Kip is currently working with the Commons staff, including Director Scott Flanagan and Dining Room Supervisor Amanda Keady, to reduce china misuse, as well as the excessive food waste. As the first part of a “multidimensional” program, Ms. Kip said that “we were going to put little receptacles [for the flatware] so no one would know it was you,” to ensure the return of bowls, plates, and utensils. “It would save so much money,” she continued, “and we could put all that money back into your food program.” So next time you grab a Commons tray to go sledding or pick up a bowl filled with ice cream for dessert, make sure that they find their way back to the dining halls, for your own sake and that of your stomach. “People don’t do it to be mean,” said Kip. “It’s unintentional. They just have to go somewhere so they go with the meal…and they don’t have time to go back. You have a schedule and it’s hard sometimes.” The initiative for the reduction of food waste is to “try to get kids and adults to ask for smaller servings if they think the serving is too big [to finish],” said Ms. Kip. The over-filling of plates, like the unintentional grabbing of flatware, is another regular Commons experience. “After waiting in line for a while to get food, people tend to take more food then they’ll eat, just so they don’t have to go back,” says Amberly Tenney, ’08. Often, eyes are simply bigger than stomachs, and those scoops of mac-and-cheese look a whole lot smaller than they actually are. “We’re going to ask everyone to be really, really active instead of passive about it,” says Kip. Ms. Kip encourages the students to recognize they have “too much, hand it back, and say ‘can I have less?’ so it won’t be wasted.” The key to eliminating food waste is to have a community that is willing to help in this effort. “We really want to stop wasting and we want to start…[to] recycle and save so that it’s dramatic, but it’s going to have to take efforts from all of us,” says Kip. “We need everyone to say, ‘okay, I’m willing to make the effort.’” If each person takes one small step, the food and china waste will surely decrease. “I think if everybody does a teeny bit,” concluded Ms. Kip, “then we’ll be able to save so much waste—and that’ll be so wonderful.”