Paper to-go cups are now a no-go in the Knorr Dining Room.
Instead, Bon Appétit Management Company, the college’s food service, is providing 1,600 reusable thermoses to students, faculty, and staff as a replacement to reduce waste, said David Apthorpe, Bon Appétit’s Hillsdale manager. Discarding the paper cups aligned with the food service company’s sustainability goals, he said.
“More than 80,000 cups and sleeves and lids hit the trash each year,” Apthorpe said. “That’s just not manageable.”
Bon Appétit decided the solution was to provide each student with a to-go thermos, so patrons can still take coffee, tea, and other drinks after leaving the cafeteria. Bon Appétit, however, has not decided if it will provide thermoses in the future.
“We didn’t want to pull the rug out and not give people another option,” he said. “So even though we’re taking away part of a service, we’re also providing a gift.”
Bon Appétit Director of Operations Anna Harutunian said the to-go tumblers allow the company to maintain an equilibrium between two of the food service’s main goals: reducing waste and maintaining convenience.
“This is a win-win situation for the college and our environment,” Harutunian said in an email.
Harutunian said those who weren’t directly given a thermos can pick one up at the front desk of the Grewcock Student Union, and faculty interested in receiving their free thermos can do so at the front desk in the dining hall.
Harutunian said Bon Appétit plans on providing incoming freshmen with a thermos each year, and extra tumblers will be available to those who lose theirs.
Bon Appétit’s decision received pushback from students, however. Several said it is an inconvenience, especially upperclassmen who were accustomed to Bon Appétit’s previous system.
“It seems as if Bon Appétit spent a significant amount of money purchasing to-go containers which students are going to bring back only on occasion, if at all,” senior Katie Mersereau said. “There is no question that a small 8-ounce beverage to go at every single meal is absolutely justified for the price of the meal plan they’re paying for.”
Apthorpe said Bon Appétit expected the complaints, saying it happens each time the cafeteria makes a significant change.
“Every time you’re changing a behavior or expectation, there’s going to be pushback,” he said. “As people get used to it, it will be fine.”
Apthorpe said he expects Bon Appétit to continue receiving feedback cards demanding the disposable cups back. The cafeteria stands by its decision, however, because part of Bon Appétit’s mission is to provide a food service sustainable for the future.
“If we can eliminate 80,000 paper cups going to the trash, we see that as a good thing,” Apthorpe said.
Junior Andrea Wallace, president of the Conservation Club, said she agreed with Bon Appétit’s decision because being environmentally conscious is essential in day-to-day life — even at college.
“Studies have shown that if one consumes and disposes of one paper cup of coffee a day, they will generate 23 pounds of waste each year,” Wallace said in an email. “Let’s say an average of 500 students consume a to-go beverage from the cafeteria daily — that would result in 11,500 pounds of waste.”
A consequence of Bon Appétit’s switch is the increasing number of ceramic mugs disappearing from the cafeteria. Students forget their thermoses and leave with the sit-in mugs available to them, Apthorpe said. He said this is a reality Bon Appétit is willing to face.
Apthorpe said the desire to reduce the amount of food being taken from the cafeteria also went into the decision.
“It’s definitely an added benefit,” he said. “But the thermoses obviously don’t prohibit it from happening altogether. But when things leave the cafe, it diminishes the value for everyone else who comes in.”
Harutunian said Bon Appétit is willing to adjust and adapt to their customer’s needs.
“If a more efficient or unique way of servicing our customers and eliminating waste becomes available we may go that route,” she said in an email. “We are not doing this as a gimmick. We truly appreciate our customers and our environment. Students matter, the college matters, and our environment matters.”