Last Monday, Student Government launched the start of their new campaign “Just Say Basket” in a partnership with Bon Appetit.
This new biodegradable box is a simple change, as are the posters. However, Student Government EVP for College Life Morgan Jacob said SG has been working hard on this campaign since last September.
Last year, Student Government took initiative and discussed how it could continue building off the momentum of the Trayless Tuesday campaign. They wrestled with how to fix the problem of massive bags of Styrofoam accumulating in Stupe.
“It’s been a long process,” Jacob said. “Lots of research went into trying to find a good option to be used in the Stupe, and then we of course had to have some more talks when we initially brought the idea to Bon Appetit to switch these boxes.”
Bon Appetit welcomed Student Government’s proposal but they had to address the economic reality of such a change. Biodegradable boxes are significantly more expensive than standard Styrofoam. With that in mind, Student Government invested its time into research. “The research was focused on looking for biodegradable options without going to an industrial composter and then finding some of the cheapest of those options,” Jacob explained. Despite these efforts, it was clear that the cheapest supply of biodegradable would not be enough.
Raul Delgado, Bon Appetit’s General Manager explained further, “The biodegradable containers we’re testing out for the Stupe are more than double the cost of the Styrofoam. So even if there was no reduction in the paper products, and that stayed the same, it’s going to double the cost.”
The “Just Say Basket” campaign was created with the help of student based surveys. Jacob is optimistic from the student response so far. “I’ve seen a lot of students using baskets. A lot of people seem excited about it, and I think that’s really great. I think if some students don’t necessarily care as much about the environment, it’s definitely not a change that makes their life any harder.”
Future president, and current Advisory council member of A Rocha, Yuxi Zhao believes the campaign’s message can’t be stressed enough. “It’s really great that we have biodegradable but I would think that the goal is to reduce that waste as much as possible, whether it’s biodegradable or not.”
Bon Appetit says they will be testing the success of this campaign for the rest of the year. At the moment, Stupe continues to serve Styrofoam containers Sundays due to the influx of close to 1,000 students at dinner time. But in general, Delgado is optimistic for the change. “Hopefully the use of containers will be reduced somewhat if students really do catch on because there’s more buy-in and more students support initiatives when it comes as a partnership with the students.”
But while the introduction of biodegradable containers is the newest of Bon Appetit’s environmentally friendly practices, it is by no means all that they do. On Wednesday, Bon Appetit partnered with A Rocha to open their kitchens and operations up to public in the form of a tour and Q&A afterwards.
A random group of fourteen students gathered at Anderson Commons at 4 p.m., and began their tour by walking downstairs in to the Sam’s café kitchens. Chef John Krickl then began to explain everything Bon Appetit did in its operations of preparing 30,000 meals weekly for Anderson Commons as well the preparation to run Sam’s Café and Stupe. Students walked in a daze as Chef John led them through one winding staircase to another, showing how Bon Appetit sources 20 percent of their meat and produce locally. He pointed to steaming pots big enough to bathe in as employees continued to bustle in preparation for the next meal. Chicken finger night always required more prep beforehand, especially since every single meal was created fresh daily. The leftovers would go to Wheaton’s Food Recovery program, which donates good quality leftovers in packaged containers to those in the area who are food insecure. These donations are distributed twice a week.
By the time he finished at 4:36 p.m., he took his first real deep breath as he escorted them out of the kitchens upstairs. In the Q&A one student asked what more students could do to help Bon Appetit in their environmental endeavors. According to Chef John, reducing waste is vital.
Economics and sustainability have often been put at odds but it becomes clear it doesn’t have to be this way if students make the small changes presented to them. Both Student Government and Bon Appetit have invested a considerable amount of time and resources towards making Stupe and the school’s dining more sustainable. It is now up to students to play their part and “just say basket.”