Where have the dining hall straws gone?

Photo from choosetobestrawfree.com
Photo from choosetobestrawfree.com

By Charles De La Rose
Where did the straws go?! You must have heard it a thousand times since the school year has started. “I didn’t know what the hell was going on,” says Meaghan Belton when asked about her initial reaction to the absence of the straws in Holmes Dining Commons.
Most of the students around campus share the same sentiment as Belton, but are any aware as to what warranted the change? According to Phil Bowers, Director of Chartwells dining services here at Fitchburg State, the removal of the straws is part of the University’s “effort to have cleaner garbage.” Our post-consumer waste is now being recycled to local pig farms rather than thrown away. Bowers also explained that with the school beginning to recycle its organic waste this year dining services has begun to separate dish room garbage, and the straws often make this process hard because of the difficulty in spotting them. Signs have also been placed in the dining hall, explaining to students how the straws actually contaminate the waste, making it hazardous to the livestock that may consume it.  Removal of the straws is just the latest of many strides Fitchburg State has taken towards improving their waste and becoming more energy efficient.
These strides began with their Single Stream Recycling program, a campus wide initiative aimed at spreading recycling awareness and encouraging use of the bins placed all around campus. It started in January 2008 and has since diverted more than 689 tons of waste from landfills.
The Sustainability Advisory Committee, also established in 2008 has helped FSU create institutional structures that allow the school to take a leadership role in the community’s campaign for climate neutrality. Last year, the committee held a food waste challenge here in Fitchburg State’s Holmes dining Commons that saw a reduction of 233 pounds in food waste just during the week of April 21 alone.
In addition to the removal of straws, you may have noticed some very eye popping general statistics placed above the tray return area, with a headliner that reads “Taste don’t waste.” Bowers inserted that these statistics were not put there to make a statement but rather to “get the kids thinking about this type of stuff.” Bowers mentioned, “It is disappointing how much food is being wasted. The amount can be shocking… It’s self-serve so people can take whatever they want, and they end up taking more than they can eat. And that all gets wasted.”  Since the cost of food has the potential to go up, there seems to be some validity to Bower’s wishes to cut down on waste.
The Holmes Dining Hall is a necessity for many people on campus, students should be relieved the prices for meal plans are not going up. In exchange, throwing out less food would be an enormous help to the staff.  Less food being wasted will allow Holmes to continue to provide excellent service and allow room for improvement.
It is clear that this new effort influenced by the regulations of the State Department of Environmental Protection will need more than a few helping hands to get it to be effective, most importantly the aid of the students.
Bowers stated, “Our overall goal is to reduce the amount of waste that goes into the return area.” he has already seen some students make a conscious effort to reduce their waste.
When asked if the statistics above the tray return area, made him think twice before taking an excessive amount of food, fellow FSU student Kort Forman answered, “Yes, absolutely! Seeing how much food is still on trays when kids bring them up, especially knowing that it was all going to landfills has definitely caused me to take only what I’m going to eat.”
Here at Fitchburg State we are committed to a greener tomorrow, From the faculty down to the students, FSU has continued to lead the charge for climate neutrality, and that appears to be without straws.