Sustainable Dining

September 13, 2010

Biodegradable and reusable products are now in Sodexo-run facilities on campus.

This fall, diners across campus are eating off biodegradable plates, taking to-go food in sustainable containers and using napkins made of recycled paper.

The new environmentally friendly products are being used in all Sodexo-run facilities on campus, including J Street and West Hall.

The initiative was spearheaded by the university’s Food Working Group, which was convened last spring to address sustainability initiatives in the university’s dining facilities. The group includes representatives from GW, student organizations and Sodexo.

“The addition of sustainable plateware is a wonderful sign that the university is continuously working to meet students’ demands and its own environmental goals,” says Kelly Mannes, a GW student who serves on the Food Working Group.

As of the start of the academic year, Sodexo-run facilities at GW no longer use any plastic or styrene products. Styrene is a synthetic chemical used extensively in the manufacture of plastics and rubber.

Plates and soup containers are made from all-natural, renewable resources, and biodegradable to-go containers composed of sugar cane and bamboo are available. Napkins are made from 100 percent recycled fiber, and new one-at-a-time dispensing mechanisms promise to reduce napkin usage by 25 percent.

At the newly renovated West Hall on GW’s Mount Vernon Campus, Melamine reusable plateware is being used for all in-house dining.

“In the past, we have used roughly 680 pounds of styrene and plastic products per year,” says Sophie Waskow, Food Working Group member and stakeholder engagement coordinator for the GW Office of Sustainability. “The new products are lighter and made from a variety of renewable and cleaner resources.”

The university currently incinerates all trash from dining facilities, but Ms. Waskow says that burning a cleaner product is better for the environment. “It is our hope that in the future we will compost these products, thus taking full advantage of their composition,” she says.

The Food Working Group is also exploring how to increase the amount of locally grown food and composting on campus.

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