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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Residence halls serve up sustainable dishware

Our colors may be blue and gold, but recent developments in sustainability practices at UC Davis may lead people to question why “green” isn’t among them.

In September, Student Housing introduced Aggieware, a reusable tableware program. The program utilizes reusable dishes and compostable napkins for student programs in the dorms.

Aggieware is part of Student Housing’s goal to make all residence hall programs zero waste by 2020.

“Aggieware is used in the residence halls for any event or program where food is served,” said Richard Ronquillo, assistant director of Student Housing. “The idea is for all Housing staff to use Aggieware anytime we would have used paper or plastic products.”

The program saves money by eliminating the need to buy paper products.

“We realized that we could make the move to reusable dishware and, with the savings from no longer purchasing paper products, the payback for the program would be a little over two years,” said Ronquillo in an e-mail interview.

The idea for Aggieware was first introduced in May 2009. After realizing how many residence hall programs included food and drink, Ronquillo and other dining and sustainability representatives began to discuss how to make these events zero waste.

“Initially we thought about compostable flatware but the concern was that the compostables would never make it to the composters,” Ronquillo said.

They decided instead to utilize washable, reusable dishware. Within four months, Aggieware was planned, approved and delivered to Student Housing.

Each set of Aggieware consists of four kits. The Blue kit contains 20 plates and 20 forks. The Gold kit contains 25 cups. The White kit includes 20 bowls and 20 spoons, and the Green kit includes 50 recycled content napkins and one compost bag.

Every resident advisor stores one set of Aggieware in his or her room. After using the dishware, RAs are responsible for repacking it into designated containers and exchanging it for a clean set of Aggieware at the Dining Commons.

Courtney Hall, an RA in Thompson Hall, said Aggieware is easy to use and helps to save both money and reduce waste in the dorms.

“Not only is Aggieware saving money that can be used for programs, additionally it is a way in which UC Davis is showing its commitment to sustainability,” said Hall in an e-mail interview. “Purchasing sustainable food for programs costs more money, but without the need to purchase paper products we have the funds to make this sustainable choice.”

Monse Garcia, an RA for Thille Hall, said although the program saves money, problems still remain.

“It’s a little bit of a hassle,” she said. “There are specific hours when you can take it to the DC; like you can’t take it after 9 p.m. But it has to be returned within 12 hours [of the event].”

Garcia said there is sometimes confusion when she returns Aggieware to the DC.

“It seems like only supervisors and managers know what’s going on,” Garcia said. “When we bring back dishes to the DC, employees are confused. They need more training.”

Ronquillo said Student Housing continues to make adjustments to Aggieware based on reactions from RAs.

“What has really allowed the program to work is the dedication all staff have to the Student Housing Sustainability Commitment Statement and the RAs hard work trying something new, not being afraid to give feedback and being willing to change midyear,” he said.

Patrice Stafford, Sustainability Coordinator, is pleased with how the program has been received and utilized.

“I think Aggieware fits well in an area (events and programs) where we knew we could improve sustainability,” said Stafford in an e-mail interview.

For Ronquillo, Aggieware is just the beginning of UC Davis’ commitment to green living.

“We have been contacted by other campus departments and other universities who would like to duplicate this program and we enjoy sharing what we learned from this process,” he said. “I think because we are committed to the program it will continue to grow stronger and get better as time progresses.”

ERIN MIGDOL can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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