While Bates has made an incredible effort over the years to improve efficiency and reduce waste at Commons (through efforts such as diverting approximately 82 percent of waste away from landfills and donating uneaten food to homeless shelters), we as students hold the ultimate responsibility for improving sustainability, especially when it comes to wastage in Commons. With everyone working towards a common goal of reducing waste, individuals alone can save hundreds of pounds of food and liquid every year, which translates to thousands of pounds collectively as a school. This not only helps Bates fulfill its commitment to reducing its environmental footprint, but also allows Commons to divert its finances towards expanding our menu and catering to students’ needs rather than paying for wasted food.
There are plenty of simple adjustments you can make to your regular Commons routine in order to reduce waste. One of the most effective things you can do is to take a round through Commons before heaping every dish you see onto your plate. You not only end up getting what you actually want to eat and avoid having to waste, you also get to explore different options and to broaden your nutritional horizons. Take what you think you’ll eat, as you can always come back for seconds. Once mealtime is over, challenge yourself and see how much you can get out of just one napkin. Maybe you’ll save a few. Or ten.
When it comes to beverages, you can also moderate your portion sizes by using the transparent plastic cups rather than the larger recyclable paper cups. If you want a refill, it’s always available. When you want to take a beverage to go, using your own liquid container is the best option, as you can register it with the Bates Mug Club and use it to get credit towards free meal passes (usable for your guests and for meals that would normally cost you $6.00 during breaks). If you choose to use a recyclable cup, remember to empty your cup before throwing it in the recycling (the top is also recyclable). If you don’t empty your cup, the liquids from your cup contaminate the whole bin and render it unusable for recycling.
Lastly — and this will be the least popular piece of advice — avoid taking food out of Commons and stashing it in your room. While taking a snack out for later is fine, taking loaves of bread and cups full of almond butter is extremely costly and can become a tragedy of the commons (no pun intended), especially considering that a lot of those foods end up ignored, uneaten, and eventually rotten in the back of your fridge. Unfortunately, Commons was never meant to be a grocery store. That’s what Shaw’s is for.
While our individual efforts might not save the polar bears and stop sea levels from rising, our collective efforts as a college can have a sizable impact. At the end of the day, we are really only responsible for our own actions, and whether or not those actions have considerable consequences shouldn’t really matter so much as knowing that we are doing everything in our power to preserve our environment. And with those pieces of (cliché) wisdom and some waste-reducing practices in mind, we at CHEWS hope you can make some more informed and sustainable decisions in Commons.