Green GW, the Food Justice Alliance and the Office of Sustainability are working together with Sodexo to come up with ways to improve the company’s sustainability practices, a student leader said last week.
Though the groups are still in the early planning stages, they have already begun to research alternatives to Styrofoam for plates and are looking to start sampling products in late March, said senior Amanda Formica, president of the Food Justice Alliance.
“We are starting as a committee by looking at reforming what kind of containers food comes in and reducing waste,” Formica said. “We also want to look closer at where food is sourced from and how we can make it more local and fair-trade focused, as well as just plain healthier.”
Sophie Waskow, a spokeswoman for the Office of Sustainability, initiated the group’s efforts and said that food sustainability is one of the focus areas her office is working on.
“From a sustainability perspective, food shapes our society by the positive and negative impacts it has on health and economy, as well as the environmental challenges born by how our food is produced and how it travels to our plate,” Waskow said.
“We are currently focused on how GW, Sodexo and students can work together on this issue and create future projects,” she added.
Spencer Olson, president of Green GW, said the products the committee is looking into are produced by Sodexo’s vendors, like Sysco.
“We have done a lot of research on different alternatives to see what biodegradable products are available in the marketplace,” Olson said.
Olson said part of the reason the groups are looking into alternatives to current Styrofoam plates is because of the way some of GW’s waste is disposed of. Waste is incinerated at a facility in Maryland to produce electricity, Olson said.
“Burning Styrofoam products is incredibly wasteful and harsh on the environment,” Olson said. “So if we were burning paper or bamboo or corn starch, that would be much better.”
Sodexo wants to have a focus group of students to give their feedback on the new products as part of the decision-making process, Formica said.
“They are desperately seeking student feedback and want students’ business,” said Formica, who noted that when Sodexo first came on campus, they started purchasing fair trade coffee due to “intense student pressure.”
Sam Ramos, director of operations for Sodexo at GW, did not return requests for comment.
Olson said the next step for the groups would be composting.
“Hopefully, down the road, we are really working on getting compost on campus. Mount Vernon started it this year, and it is a pilot project, and Pelham will actually have a composter in it,” Olson said. “We are hoping to learn from that, and in the next year or two, hopefully, we will move on to J Street.”
The groups said that students can make a difference, and Sodexo wants to listen.
“The University of Vermont, which has some of the most sustainable cafeterias in the U.S., also uses Sodexo,” Formica said. “It’s because students make strong, concrete demands for how they want to eat and together they pressure the University. It is our job as students to make such strong, concrete demands and unite to hold the University accountable to its commitment toward sustainability.”
This article appeared in the March 11, 2010 issue of the Hatchet.