Student Driven Sustainability

In the US, 40% of all the food we produce is going to waste. One head of lettuce can take up to 25 years to decompose in a landfill. Plastic, which the majority of food is served on, is not bio degradable. 90% of the trash floating in our oceans is made of plastic. On a college campus with over 5,000 students, food and plastic are produced and served every single meal of every day. So what is Marist Dining doing to minimize waste? What are Marist students doing? 

According to the sustainability page on Sodexo’s website, “Marist Dining Services is committed to environmental stewardship by integrating awareness, local action, and regional and global thinking into planning and decision making”.

Most recently, Sodexo has invested in paper straws at the cafes on campus, as well as straw-less iced coffee cups in the Starbucks served in the library and Hancock. Sodexo Field marketing specialist, Kate Cole, says it was part of the company’s 2025 initiative, in accordance with the Sustainable [United Nations] Development goals. “It really was company wide initiative and really started to grow because as a company we are always aiming for a better tomorrow,” said Cole. Although a small step, it is still important. “The straws are a small part of the grander scheme of moving towards a more sustainable future,” said Cole.

Apart from this, Sodexo has a number of other great initiatives in place.

Local sourcing food is a top priority, which reduces energy consumption, shipping waste and greenhouse emissions. Local farms provide Marist with milk, meat, baked goods, vegetables, and produce. The main dining hall also features a brand new oil recycling process, which ensures that all the oil used when cooking is properly recycled into biodiesel and not waste. Cole says the process began this semester but has been working great so far.

This all sounds great, yet is there room for improvement?

Sophomore Mia Ridgeway, President of Marist SEED, said “One idea I stress is that there should be compost bins in the dining halls…Looking at the conveyor belt where you put dirty dishes on in the dining hall, I always see so much food being wasted. This problem really bothers me because of all the energy and environmental efforts it took to produce that food is wasted”.

Lucky for Ridgeway, two seniors have already got the ball rolling. Last Spring, Erin Todd and Tess Cimino created two compost bins outside Foy Residence Hall which allows students to turn their food waste into valuable soil for the gardens on campus. These two compost bins have now grown into an entire campus wide initiative called Marist Compost. Cimino and Todd partnered with Marist Grounds and are now attempting to get compost bins at all residence halls.

Cimino says the hope is that in the future, there will be small compost bins inside every residence building and larger ones outside. “Our goal right now is educating students on what can and can not be composted. Hopefully by providing compost bins inside the dorms, it will become second nature for people living on campus,” said Cimino. This same concept could be adapted to the dining halls as well, yet Cole says it would need further logistical planning.

Driven by students, Marist’s environmental initiatives are progressing. Both within residence halls and in the dining facilities, efforts are being made to create a more sustainable future. Hopefully, that means a little less food is sitting in a landfill and a little less plastic is floating in the ocean.

Vegetable and herb garden on campus that provides fresh produce to Marist Dining. Soil provided by Marist Compost will be used in the garden once the weather begins to warm up.

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