I was in line at the cafeteria last week when someone from one of the other offices in my building said “Oh, when did they start using china in this cafeteria?” I had to politely tell the woman that DHMC was not deploying reusable dishes at all of its cafeterias and that I bring my own plate and just wash it afterwards. “Oh, what a good idea!” she said, “I should bring my own plate sometimes. Washing it off afterwards isn’t too hard.”
Handwashing isn’t that difficult, but washing off all of the dishes in a central location, using an auto dishwasher, would probably save money and water, and would certainly save a time for all of the people working in the building. There would be an initial outlay and ongoing expense to stock the china and deal with breakages and so forth, but it would be a great step for sustainability.
I spoke to the sustainability coordinator at DHMC and one of the dining administrators several months ago about reusable dishes at the satellite cafeterias, but as far as I can tell there hasn’t been any progress on this front. We’re still using foam plates at my cafeteria. I’d like them to at least switch to compostable plates, but I understand their reticence when DHMC isn’t even composting at its main location yet.
I believe that all of the food waste from DHMC is still going into the landfill instead of going to the compost facility because the Dartmouth composting facility is operating at a fraction of its total throughput. Based on what I’ve learned, the composting facility just can’t handle such a large volume without a larger staff, which is unlikely due to budget cuts.
Everything goes back to money, doesn’t it? Maybe there could be some kind of volunteer program out there. You know, sign up and work a few hours, and help Dartmouth/DHMC compost all of its waste. C’mon, it would be fun. They even have large earth-moving machines out there!
Speaking of money and of reuse, I should get back to the title of this post, Reuse those foam plates!. I don’t think that the cafeteria will let you tare your ceramic plate and get salad on that, so just reuse a foam plate each day for your salad. It has the same tare weight if you just rinse it off, and if you have your own salad dressing, you hardly even have to do that. To make your plate last as long as possible, don’t eat on it as fork tines will poke through it.
Being sustainable should be easy, but sometimes when you’re in a situation where you don’t have official support you have to get creative in your methods. I *ahem* “borrowed” a soup bowl from the main cafeteria a couple of months ago after trying to use a ceramic mug for soup and getting reamed on price. I was ordered to pay double because I put a ladle and a half into my cup, which is rather curious because my ill-begotten “official” bowl takes…wait for it… a ladle and a half of soup, too.
The foam salad plates were the last frontier: Now that I’ve found a way to reuse them, pretty much every aspect of the salad-eating at the cafeteria should be reusable and/or sustainable. Sure, this is just one step towards a sustainable DHMC, but it’s a way for me to send a few dozen fewer foam plates to the landfill each year. That’s right, the foam plates don’t even have a plastic resin id on them, so I can’t even recycle them through Dartmouth -> CCNE.
Keep your stick on the ice,