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Residence Life Eats Up Compostable Diningware

Friday, Jul. 23, 2010

Residence Life at Santa Clara University recently dished out a new initiative chalk full of sustainability – quite literally. Residential Learning Communities began replacing plastic utensils and disposable cups and plates at programming events last spring with biocompostable tableware. The renewed effort reveals a potential to reduce waste and boost compost collection across campus.

World Centric, a Palo Alto-based advocacy organization focused on reducing economic injustice and environmental degradation through sustainable enterprise and education, presented its eco-products to RLC leaders last February. It was left to Community Facilitators and Resident Directors to decide which products would be best for each RLC. Popular selections included utensils and smaller cups and plates. Communities previously made trips to stores like Costco to purchase disposable tableware for programming events.

The bulk order of World Centric products made by the University earlier this year represents the single-largest effort to make residential programming less wasteful, but it’s hardly the first. Heather Dumas-Dyer, Director of Santa Clara’s Office of Residence Life, says RLCs have used other eco-product companies in the past. Some community leaders have even encouraged residents to bring their own bowls and plates to events to cut down on trash.

The decision to dump plastic in favor of biocompostables was a nod to sustainability, according the Dumas-Dyer. World Centric’s website notes that “[e]co products reduce pollution and waste, require less energy and water to produce, come from renewable resources, are created from waste products, [and] save biodiversity and habitats.” Santa Clara’s orders from the company could reduce energy consumption even further by cutting out the need for community leaders to make individual trips to stores for supplies.

Since the biocompostable products vary little from traditional tableware, students have been largely receptive to the switch. Communities will continue to roll out compost bins at programming events so that residents are reminded to separate their refuse when cleaning up.

Learn more about Residence Life.
Learn more about World Centric.

By Chris Woodhouse, '10, Sustainability Intern.

Tags: Campus Operations, Education and Research, Food, Program Highlights, Residence Life, Student Life, Waste



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