In an effort to promote more sustainable dining on campus, Vassar’s Office of Sustainability recently reinstated the Green2Go program. For Fall 2021, students enrolled in the program will be able to take food from the Grill and Bowl stations at the Retreat using reusable containers rather than single-use ones.
Green2Go is a sustainability initiative that promotes the usage of reusable containers as opposed to single-use ones. This program is in place at other universities, such as Pennsylvania State University, University of Pennsylvania and Carleton College (Frederick, 2014; Careyva, 2015; Sustainability at Carleton, 2021).
The Office of Sustainability, in collaboration with Vassar SEED and Vassar GREENS, launched a Green2Go pilot program at the College during the Spring 2021 semester. They implemented the program to mitigate the excess plastic waste produced by the take-out dining model at Gordon Commons, colloquially known as the Deece, instituted in response to the ongoing pandemic (Miscellany News, 2021). Students enrolled in the program received a membership tag and token, which they could exchange for a reusable container at the Home, Root, Oasis and Brick stations in the dining hall.
Last year’s Green2Go efforts diminished the amount of excess waste produced by students at the College. According to Director of Sustainability Micah C. Kenfield, preliminary estimates from the approximately 200 students who actively participated in the program last spring demonstrated that about 7,500 single-use containers were diverted from the landfill in addition to thousands of pounds of food waste.
After a successful trial run at the Deece last year, the Office of Sustainability decided to revive the Green2Go program at the Retreat, since the former cafeteria is now dine-in only. The process is the same as it was last year: students receive a membership tag and a token they can use to exchange for a reusable container and food. Enrollees then must wash the containers and return them at a machine located near the dish area in the Deece, where they will retrieve their token and repeat the process for their next meal.
As of Sept. 28, approximately 100 students have signed up to participate in Green2Go for the coming school year and the Office of Sustainability is actively working to recruit more members.
President of Vassar Greens Glenna Gomez ’24 [Disclaimer: Gomez is a Copy Staffer at The Miscellany News] is one of the 100 students who have enrolled in the program thus far. As a member of one of the organizations that heavily advocated for Green2Go last year, Gomez believes the program is a step in the right direction. “I fully support the reinstitution of the Green2Go program at the Retreat,” she said. Gomez added, “Zero-waste is the ultimate goal … I am hopeful that the implementation of the Green2Go program…is going to help us work towards waste reduction.”
Office of Sustainability intern Lisa Smart ’22 has also signed up for the Green2Go program and feels excited for the program’s resurgence. “I have been working on waste reduction on campus since my freshman year in GREENS, Dining Committee, and the Office of Sustainability, and this finally feels like a solution that is visible and accessible to all students,” said Smart.
Smart also emphasized the importance of increased student engagement in the program: “I would say that…participation in Green2Go is extremely important in order to show administration and the people who worked to get this program off the ground that it was worth the investment.” Without feedback from students, it becomes hard to gauge the value of the program. Smart elaborated, “When changes are put into place and no one expresses any sort of excitement or critique, there is less likelihood that that program, no matter how useful or needed it is, will grow or develop into the ideal system that students may imagine.”
Since the program is still in its preliminary stages, only students can register to participate. However, the Office of Sustainability hopes to expand Green2Go’s membership to employees once the program is solidified.
While there are hopes for Green2Go to expand in the future, it will not return to the Gordon Commons. As explained by Kenfield, “Gordon Commons is traditionally dine-in-only, and only switched over to takeout when in-person dining was suspended. Now that in-person dining is back at Gordon Commons, there are no plans to offer take-out…at this venue.” They proceeded to say, “Our focus right now is getting the program off the ground at the new location [the Retreat] and making sure we’re doing it right.”
When asked if she wished for the Green2Go program to be implemented at the Deece, Gomez highlighted the symbolic significance of the program’s existence on campus: “While it may only have a small impact on the waste overall on campus, I believe this transition is integral to our ongoing discussion with admin concerning the reduction of single-use options specifically.”
Although Gomez fully supports the Green2Go program at the Retreat, she also cautioned that such efforts were just the beginning in terms of fully sustainable dining on campus. She stated, “I believe that we are taking the right steps toward waste reduction overall, however we still have a long way to go. She explained, “The obstacle in the way of obtaining our goal is often [in] concord with the administration. As long as we continue to voice our concerns and remain in communication with admin (such as the VSA Dining Committee), I am hopeful that we will continue decreasing the overall waste at the Deece.”
In terms of other plans moving forward, Kenfield noted that the Office of Sustainability is currently working with Dining Services to develop a joint program that will diminish contamination rates for recycling and compost, and bolster the College’s composting program. Since the plans are still in their early stages, more details cannot be provided at this time but the Office of Sustainability in collaboration with Dining Services will provide them in the near future.
While there have been many strides towards a more environmentally-friendly campus, the work is yet to be done. For now, the Green2Go program serves as a critical step in the College’s attempts to reduce excess waste and promote sustainability in the long term.