In the last few years, college campuses have become increasingly aware of their impact on Earth’s environment. Minnesota State has recently been faced with the option to make an eco-friendly change by going green in the Centennial Student Union.
On Oct. 16, Bill Harvey and Phil Novak, of Sodexo, the university’s food provider, met with the Student Union Board to discuss sustainability options for the retail operations in the CSU. A report was presented on their sustainability efforts regarding eco-friendly food packaging. The program consists of replacing many of the items such as straws, hot and cold cups, lids, silverware, soup containers and paper bags.
The CSU would replace many items with products from Excellent Packaging System, a company that specializes in environmentally sustainable packaging and offers a compostable, biodegradable and recyclable product line as well as traditional packaging. BioMass Packaging Food Service Disposables Program, an EPS exclusive program, is the most comprehensive sustainable packaging program available in North America. If everything goes as planned, the change could take place by early spring semester.
Jayme Pretzloff, Student Union Board Chair, encourages students to support this change and says college is a powerful time to make the change to become eco-friendly.
“In an ever-changing world, there is a need for awareness and change,” Pretzloff said. “This program ensures that we are being environmental stewards. As students, we’re the generation that is going to push a lot of this change through and we have the opportunity to do that here at MSU and throughout our lives.”
Retail operators on campus currently use Styrofoam cups, plastic lids, paper straws, plastic forks, knives and spoons and paper coffee cups. On average, it takes 2,000 years for a Styrofoam cup to decompose in a landfill. As of Oct. 16, MSU had already used 23,070 Styrofoam cups this semester, equaling around 40,000 to date.
Although the change will cost around 10 cents more on each effective product, it has the potential to be a dramatically positive change, since the recyclable products are made from things like corn and potatoes.
Other vendors, such as Freshens Smoothie Company and Taco Bell, have made efforts to help MSU become a green campus. Freshens has replaced the polystyrene foam cups with a fully compostable paper cup. Taco Bell’s sustainability efforts include the usage of naturally stable canola oil in all the cooking of their products as well as a change in energy usage and new equipment. Sodexo has also implemented a reusable mug program, PLANit, that gives students, faculty and staff a discount on beverage purchases when they have the mug.
Another green measure the school has taken recently is the cafeteria’s “Trayless Tuesdays,” when the trays are removed for a day.
“Research shows that when trays are removed from dining locations, less food is wasted, less energy is consumed, and it reduces the amount of water and detergents used,” said Phil Novak of university dining services. “We have implemented Trayless Tuesday’s during the month of October and November with an estimated savings of 1,680 pounds of food and 1,596 gallons of water.”
Before making a final decision and supporting something new on campus, the CSU board would appreciate feedback from students. They are asking students to complete a short, two question online survey in order to gain student input on the change. The survey is currently online and will run until midnight on Thursday.
“Perceptions on the change have been extremely positive campus-wide and I think the survey from the students will represent that as well,” Pretzloff said.
Erin Rohrer is a Reporter staff writer