Saturday, June 21, 2014

"Four Step Waste" at Carleton commencement ceremony 2014

At Carleton College, Bon Appétit collaborated with the college facilities department, the Food Recovery Network, and college administrators to set a precedent for managing  box lunch waste. The call to action came when the college administration requested 4,000 box lunches for the 2014 graduation ceremony. In the past, a smaller order of boxes overwhelmed Carleton's waste system, which consists of separate receptacles for compost, recycling, and landfill. This year, all parties involved decided to make the event clean and sustainable by engaging guests with the decision-making process of disposing of box lunch waste.
All of our efforts concentrated on encouraging the consumers to perform a simple, thoughtfully designed four-step process: 1) recycle bottles and cans, 2) donate uneaten food, 3) compost all remaining waste, 4) flatten and stack your box. BA's decision to make all the components of the box lunch compostable greatly simplified what could have been a five- or six-step process. During production, BA placed  paper inserts into each and every box lunch, which boldly illustrated the four steps (Figure 1). A campaign to publicize the four-step process in the lead-up to the event included an announcement during the graduation rehearsal, a note in the graduation program, and table tents in BA dining facilities around campus. A robust set of banners and signs (Figure 2) were deployed on the day of the event, and nine specially engineered "waste stations" were assembled at strategic locations around the seating area. Each waste station consisted of a food donation receptacle, a compost receptacle, a recycling receptacle, a table for flattened  boxes and a  volunteer attendant. These "waste patrol" volunteers were instrumental in guiding people through the four step process as they approached waste stations with their box lunches. Ultimately, no number of printed signs can match the influence that a single, breathing human being is capable of.
As a waste patroller on the day of this event, I was thrilled by the curiosity and cooperation of guests of all ages and backgrounds. Our guests benefitted from being guided through the process of breaking apart and responsibly disposing of the different elements of their box. In the process, they realized that Carleton--Bon Appétit, staff, administrators, and our other community members--care about what does and does not belong in the landfill. For guests who are used to depositing of all different types of waste in the same place--the landfill--this was a strong exposure to a different way of doing things.  In the end, everyone involved could rest easier knowing that all the leftover food would, the very next day, be sent to a community in need, and that the entirety of the box and packaging would be turned into soil.
 --Article by Jackson Vanfleet-Brown, published in Bravo Magazine, 2014, Volume 3

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