News To Know: Resilience in Sustainability
By Allie Larman
UC Davis has been recognized nationally for both its success in sustainability and its ambitious and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These successes take the cooperation of the entire campus community, but one group- Student Housing and Dining Services (SHDS)- stands out for their resilience in sustainability. SHDS manages the four on-campus Dining Commons, Markets, and Retail Dining.
Last August the UC passed an ambitious new policy to transition all UC campuses away from single use plastics in on-campus dining facilities by January 2023. UC Davis is well on its way to meeting this goal, as evidenced by the removal of single-use plastic bags from retail and dining facilities.
And yet, despite this progress, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on new challenges for the elimination of single use plastics. All on-campus dining locations have shifted to take-out only services, forcing them to adopt to-go containers.
Jenni Taylor, the SDHS Sustainability Manager, says that “dining services are doing the best they can to procure ones [to-go containers] that are compostable” but mentions that it has been difficult to purchase compostable containers considering the rapid industry-wide transition to to-go dining.
In response, SDHS introduced a reusable container program. Upon arrival at UC Davis, each Residence Halls resident received reusable containers to use in the dining halls. Students bring these containers to the dining hall to pick up their food and exchange them after use for cleaning. When a student returns their container, they receive a token which allows them to pick up a clean container. This program has not been without challenges, as about 4,000 containers have been misplaced by students since the beginning of the school year.
SHDS is expanding their sustainability engagement far beyond the scope of single-use plastic policy. The group is collaborating with the UC Davis Energy Conservation Office to engage residents in a virtual energy and water conservation challenge to help build community despite physical distance restrictions. The sustainability student team recently launched a successful “Adopt a Plant” program, which virtually connects students to the on-campus Segundo Garden. The group is also looking forward to opening a second on-campus community garden in the Tercero housing area.