Projects for Fall 2023 include:
Continuing to improve efficiency in dining halls around campus to ensure they remain on reusable dishware
Helping 104West! transition to reusable dishware
Expanding and improving plant-based options on campus
Any other sustainable changes you'd like to see within Cornell Dining!
Eliminating Paper/Plastic in dining halls
Sep 2022 - Present
The RSL Dining subteam saw a huge sustainability problem in many dining halls: the utilization of disposable paper dishes and plastic utensils. This was particularly an issue in Morrison Dining, the largest dining hall on campus, which struggled to utilize reusable dishes and utensils due to understaffing.
To help solve this problem, we designed utensil separation bins in the dish return area for students to pre-separate and pre-sort utensils before they reach the dishroom. This system helps the limited dish staff wash utensils in a fraction of the time by eliminating the separation and sorting steps, freeing up bandwidth to wash other items. Since its implementation, this system has helped Morrison switch to reusable dishware, preventing tens of thousands of disposable items from entering the landfills each day! Additionally, according to dishwashing staff, the system has made working conditions safer by significantly reducing the amount of utensils falling from the dish return onto the staff in the dishroom below.
We also implemented similar utensil separation systems in Bethe and Becker Dining Halls, which has helped both operate more efficiently. We are also working to implement this in Cook and improve the usage in Rose.
We faced many challenges when trying to convince the dining halls to adopt this change, particularly in Morrison. However, we persisted over two semesters, spending countless weeks iterating on designs, attending meetings, and navigating red tape. There were many times where we became discouraged; however, we never took “no” for an answer. The hard work and determination paid off, and we hope to expand our work to all dining halls in the future!
As of Fall 2023, the bins have played a large role in helping Morrison fully transition to reusable dishware, a first for the dining hall. North Star also adopted similar bins.
Special thanks to Dustin Freeley, Annie Quach, Paul Muscente, Dustin Cutler, Lisa Zehr, Anna Ben-Shlomo, Troy Buchanan, Kristopher Angle, and many others from the Cornell Dining administration team, Cornell Dining staff, and Student Assembly Dining Committee for supporting this initiative!
Utensil separation bins in Morrison Dining
Utensil separation bins in North Star
Utensil separation bins in Jansen's Dining Room at Bethe House
Reid Fleishman, leader of this initiative, ecstatic to see fully reusable dishware in Morrison Dining for the Fall 2023 semester!
The RSL dining subteam hosted a speaker event where Dr. Mario Herrero, professor of stustainable food systems and global change spoke to students about sustainable food systems and climate change adaptation.
Special thanks to Dr. Mario Herrero and ECO for making this event possible!
Expanding reusable takeout container program
Cornell Dining's reusable takeout containers are a great way to take out food from dining halls while reducing waste from disposable containers. However, the RSL dining subteam saw a fundamental problem with this program: many students did not want to use the reusable takeout containers because they were required to purchase them from Cornell Dining.
To combat this problem, RSLs conducted surveys on students' preferences and found that students would be more willing to utilize the takeout containers if they were provided for free.
Working with Cornell Dining administration, the RSLs successfully designed a model where students on a meal plan could get a container for free. The popularity of the reusable takeout container program has since soared!