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Campus Rant: One item rule trashes good food

Genna McCabe | Wednesday, October 7, 2009

 Going green is the responsible, if not trendy, thing to do these days. Everyone is concerned with conserving energy, being a conscious consumer and making the world a better place to live in. Signs of the times can be seen across campus. We have a whole week dedicated to eco-friendly energy and consumption. Last year’s Notre Dame Forum was dedicated to the discussion of sustainable energy. Even in the dining halls little signs remind us to “consider going tray-less” and “not waste food.” Yet there is a clear flaw in the design of this latest campaign – the one-item rule. 

I know it may seem strange to connect an attempt to reduce waste with the one-item rule (a student is only permitted to take one item with them from the dining hall following a meal) but I would like to supply a personal experience that will hopefully explain my reasoning. 

I was recently eating dinner at one of the dining halls on campus. After putting my tray up, I decided that I was going to grab some fro-yo for the walk back to my dorm. Yet I already had a banana in my hand. Big mistake. As I walked to the exit, I was promptly stopped short and informed that I was only permitted to remove one of my two items from the dining hall. Thinking in the short term, I handed over my banana and walked out the door with my fro-yo in a huff.  

This may seem like a familiar story, but let me break it down one step further. As a dining hall worker myself, I know for a fact that that banana was thrown out. On shifts I work, I throw away countless pieces of untouched fruit. Whole apples, bananas, oranges and pears are tossed every day because they have been contaminated by the simple act of being picked up by a student. Considering the big picture, wouldn’t it have been better to allow me to take that piece of fruit in addition to my fro-yo? The banana would not have been wasted, and I would have had breakfast. Instead the banana was thrown away, and I still ate breakfast. Thus, twice as much food and energy was expended on my breakfast than if I had been allowed the banana in the first place.  

Coming at this situation from another standpoint: does it really make a difference if I consumed my fro-yo and banana in the dining hall or outside of it? Not to beat a dead horse, but I pay a good deal of money for every meal I eat at the dining hall, and I am fairly certain that I rarely consume an equivalent amount of food. Eating my fro-yo before I leave changes little – the same amount of food was consumed, and less food would have been wasted in the end.  

I realize there is a slippery slope when it comes to rules. Who is to say that a two item rule will solve anything? I simply propose that some discretion is used in considering each situation. I think that as students of Notre Dame, we have the ability to know the difference between taking two items and taking an entire meal home for later. And in an environment where everyone is concerned with the responsible use of resources, isn’t it better that that banana is eaten rather than thrown away? This may be a small step, but it is one step further in reducing waste and limiting our impact on the environment. 

Genevieve McCabe may be reached at gmccabe@nd.edu 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

-

archive

Campus Rant: One item rule trashes good food

Genevieve McCabe | Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Going green is the responsible, if not trendy, thing to do these days. Everyone is concerned with conserving energy, being a conscious consumer and making the world a better place to live in. Signs of the times can be seen across campus. We have a whole week dedicated to eco-friendly energy and consumption. Last year’s Notre Dame Forum was dedicated to the discussion of sustainable energy. Even in the dining halls little signs remind us to “consider going tray-less” and “not waste food.” Yet there is a clear flaw in the design of this latest campaign – the one-item rule. 

I know it may seem strange to connect an attempt to reduce waste with the one-item rule (a student is only permitted to take one item with them from the dining hall following a meal) but I would like to supply a personal experience that will hopefully explain my reasoning.

I was recently eating dinner at one of the dining halls on campus. After putting my tray up, I decided that I was going to grab some fro-yo for the walk back to my dorm. Yet I already had a banana in my hand. Big mistake. As I walked to the exit, I was promptly stopped short and informed that I was only permitted to remove one of my two items from the dining hall. Thinking in the short term, I handed over my banana and walked out the door with my fro-yo in a huff.  

This may seem like a familiar story, but let me break it down one step further. As a dining hall worker myself, I know for a fact that that banana was thrown out. On shifts I work, I throw away countless pieces of untouched fruit. Whole apples, bananas, oranges and pears are tossed every day because they have been contaminated by the simple act of being picked up by a student. Considering the big picture, wouldn’t it have been better to allow me to take that piece of fruit in addition to my fro-yo? The banana would not have been wasted, and I would have had breakfast. Instead the banana was thrown away, and I still ate breakfast. Thus, twice as much food and energy was expended on my breakfast than if I had been allowed the banana in the first place.  

Coming at this situation from another standpoint: does it really make a difference if I consumed my fro-yo and banana in the dining hall or outside of it? Not to beat a dead horse, but I pay a good deal of money for every meal I eat at the dining hall, and I am fairly certain that I rarely consume an equivalent amount of food. Eating my fro-yo before I leave changes little – the same amount of food was consumed, and less food would have been wasted in the end.  

I realize there is a slippery slope when it comes to rules. Who is to say that a two item rule will solve anything? I simply propose that some discretion is used in considering each situation. I think that as students of Notre Dame, we have the ability to know the difference between taking two items and taking an entire meal home for later. And in an environment where everyone is concerned with the responsible use of resources, isn’t it better that that banana is eaten rather than thrown away? This may be a small step, but it is one step further in reducing waste and limiting our impact on the environment.

Genevieve McCabe may be reached at gmccabe@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.