By Andrea Starr
Back in the Fall 2013 semester, FinlandiaUniversity provided students who were unable to attend meals during the scheduled times with ecofriendly take-out containers and cups in the Finlandia Hall Café. Nearing the end of the semester however, there was a switch back to Styrofoam cups and containers.
“The main reason was price,” said Tim Nakkula, Director of Food Service, when discussing the switch back to Styrofoam. “[The Styrofoam cups] are almost exactly half cost of what it costs for the ecofriendly ones,” he said. “The budget is always the main concern.” By substituting Styrofoam takeout containers for ecofriendly containers, Nakkula said he was able to save about $700 a year. This is in addition to the $1,000 saved by switching to Styrofoam cups.
As a student representative for the Sustainable Finlandia Committee, I believe we cannot afford to take steps backwards when it comes to our environmental impact. Styrofoam takes up space in our landfills and does not decompose. Each year Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups, and in turn, these cups will still be sitting in landfills 500 years from now, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is a product that we should not be using if we hope to move closer toward becoming an ecofriendly university.
One logical solution to this issue is to eliminate Styrofoam altogether, allowing students to use their own personal containers to carry out beverages; however, a few weeks into the Fall 2013 semester, the Café staff posted signs prohibiting students to do so. Nakkula said there was an abuse of the privilege. “Students would come in with half gallon containers, and fill them with juice,” he said.
Although I see the obvious issue here, there should be some common ground to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, our dependence on Styrofoam. “That’s one thing we talked about before,” said Nakkula, “it’d be nice if as the students come in, they got a water bottle and maybe an insulated cup with the Finlandia logo on it.” If this plan is put into action, these cups will be the only refillable containers students are allowed to use in order to take beverages outside of the Finlandia Hall Café. The initial cost of the refillable cups would pay for themselves over again, saving Finlandia money by eliminating the costs of Styrofoam cups.
As for food containers, the Sustainable Finlandia committee has brainstormed the possibility of selling metal lunch containers on campus. These are just ideas at the moment, but if implemented properly, Finlandia could be one step closer to embracing a green existence.