Though we hear about sustainability all the time around campus, it is not the first thing that comes to mind when dining in Commons.

Bates has made an incredible effort over the years to improve efficiency and reduce waste at Commons. The hefty investment in New Commons reinforced Bates’ mission to improve sustainability, as the space uses recycled and green-certified building materials as well as highly efficient lighting systems.

As far as waste management goes, Bates diverts 78-82 percent of wasted food and liquids away from landfills. From composting food to donating leftovers to homeless shelters in Lewiston, Commons takes a number of steps toward reducing waste.

Despite these procedures, the next major step toward reducing this campus’s environmental impact lies in our hands (and in our plates and cups). With everyone working toward a common goal of reducing waste, we as individuals can save hundreds of pounds of food and liquids every year, which translates to hundreds and thousands of pounds collectively as a school.

There are plenty of simple adjustments you can make to your regular Commons routine in order to help in our sustainable efforts at Bates. The ultimate goal for individuals eating regularly at Commons should be to reduce waste as much as possible.

One of the most effective things you can do is to take a walk through the food area to explore all of the options and plan what you would like to eat. This way, you avoid heaping every appealing dish you see onto a plate. You not only end up getting what you actually want to eat and avoid having to waste, but you also get to explore different options and broaden your nutritional horizons.

If this option is too time consuming for you, try simply taking smaller portions. You can still get all of your favorites onto your plate, just with a little more moderation and less waste.

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. By doing this, not only are you avoiding wasting beverages, but also recyclable cups.

When you do need to take a beverage out of Commons and 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 before putting it into a recycling bin, the liquids from your cup contaminate the bin and render those cups unusable for recycling.

Using your own liquid container, however, is the best option, as you can register it inside Commons and use it to get credit toward free meal passes (for guests or for meals that would normally cost you $5.50 during breaks). If you don’t have a liquid container, sign up for the mug program and receive your own Bates mug to keep and reuse (this comes with the same benefits as registering your own container).

While our individual efforts, and even our collective efforts for that matter, don’t really make a tremendous impact in the grand scheme of things, we are only responsible for our own actions at the end of the day. Whether or not those actions have considerable consequences should not matter so much as knowing that we are doing everything in our power to preserve our planet.

With those pieces of slightly clichéd wisdom and some waste-reducing practices in mind, I hope you can make some more informed and sustainable decisions in Commons from now on.

If you have any questions regarding Commons or how to be more sustainable within Commons, please email the Commons Healthy Eating and Wellness Society (CHEWS) at chews@bates.edu.