For years, HFS and the UW have deservedly touted our composting prowess. HFS has been proud to offer totally compostable take-out containers, cups and flatware, all of which bypass the garbage stream in favor of the composting alternative. That was the positive side of composting. On the other hand. . .compostable take-out containers still need to be manufactured and transported to our location for a one-time use. And unfortunately, a large percentage of compostable materials are still ending up in containers meant for garbage.
Enter SEED (Students Expressing Environmental Dedication, since 2002), the HFS-sponsored student group that works with HFS to further develop recycling and composting methods.
Last school year, the membership of SEED started debating if there were a way to reduce composting; Luke Schefke, then Director of Communications, helped to coordinate a grant request to the Campus Sustainability Fund, the student-coordinated project that yearly allocates moneys garnered from the Services and Activities Fee to sustainability-related projects spanning the campus.
The proposal? To reduce the use of compostable take-out containers by offering reusable ones in the dining halls. As the proposal noted, “To begin, we would like to use the grant money to start a pilot program to introduce the idea at a smaller scale in only one dining hall in autumn quarter of 2019. This provides an opportunity to see the potential benefits and problems to overcome and give us a good start for
expansion into a more comprehensive system.”
The Campus Sustainability Fund awarded SEED $40,000 for the pilot project, which gets underway this quarter at Local Point.
Here’s how the reusable container system works.
A group of 225 students has signed up for the project. They receive a token that they present to a food service cashier. In return, the students’ food is served in a bright green take-out and returnable container produced by OZZI, a company specializing in reusable container systems. After the students eat their to-go meals, they wash out the container in the community area kitchen and take it to the hard-to-miss OZZI collection machine near the dish return area at Local Point. The container goes in, and a token is dispensed, which can then be used for the next take-out meal. When the collection unit is filled, dining staff will empty it and wash the containers for their next use.
“It has been incredible watching this program grow in the last year,” said Jenna Truong, SEEDS Executive Director. “Not only does it have the potential to change how the greater UW community looks at sustainability on campus, but it is encouraging us to be more collaborative than ever and to utilize the resources that are available to us.”
Since this is a pilot program, gathering and interpreting data is a big part of the process. To help with that aspect, students from the College of the Environment’s, Sustainability Studio (ENVIR 480) will apply their knowledge and skills with analysis, running focus groups, etc.
Lance LaFave, Residential Dining Administrator concurs, saying, “We are very excited to be working with SEED on the pilot program. This project will help determine if we roll the program out to other locations on campus.”
Jenna added, “With this pilot we are building leaders, we are building researchers, and we are building sustainability.”
Shubhangi, SEED Director of Communications, staffs an info table to introduce OZZI.