Michael Maloney, a senior graphic design major, is taking four classes that require him to carry around multiple heavy textbooks to and from class every day. He doesn’t want to even imagine hauling anything more than is necessary, even if it’s to help out the environment.
Some fellow students think differently. They voluntarily carry around an eco-friendly to-go food container in an effort to eliminate the use of polystyrene (a main component of styrofoam) on campus.
In August, a new green program began in the cafeteria, in which students were given the option to use a free polystyrene to-go container, or pay $5 for a washable, reusable one for the sake of the environment.
“I’m glad this program is not mandatory or anything. I wouldn’t want to be hassled with carrying around a container all day,” said Maloney when referring to the extra load he would have to carry if he participated in the program.
This pro-environment program was introduced to FAU by Stacy Volnick, director of Business Services. Volnick then teamed up with FAU’s Mission Green Student Association in order to expand and promote the program. Eventually, Volnick wants to switch out polystyrene to-go containers for ones that students can take home and bring back every time they want to buy a meal.
“This program is not about making a profit or saving money for FAU,” said Alex Van Mecl, president and founder of Mission Green. “It’s about cutting back on the consumption of polystyrene containers. Not so much for the bang for your buck.”
The program will monitor the return of the containers. Every time a student comes into the cafeteria to buy a to-go meal and has their Owl card swiped upon entering, the computer will indicate whether or not they have a container under their name. If the student loses the container, a new one must be bought for the original price of $5.
“We considered making this program free, but then there would be no incentive to get the used containers back, and that is really the point,” explained Volnick. “The program is only good as long as those students who buy the containers return it over and over.”
Van Mecl claims that many schools, like the University of Florida, have been consistent with the container program, which inspired Volnick to introduce the program at FAU.
“[The container program] was something that was being done at several other schools,” said Volnick. “We had been talking about bringing it into FAU for a couple of years now [and] trying to find the right product for the to-go containers.”
In order to spread the word about this program, Mission Green and Volnick will advertise the product in residence halls and in the Center Marketplace at the Boca campus. Flyers will be put up, and the word will be spread by Mission Green members. The success of this program will then mainly lie in the hands of students, depending on whether or not they want to participate.
“I think this program sounds like a great way to help the environment, since many people use the cafeteria every day,” said Gal Kol, a senior communication major. “It will make some kind of an impact.”
But some students don’t agree with Kol about the program. Sophomore Lamonte Bryce has mixed feelings about the program.
“It sounds like a good way to help the planet, but it’s not for me. I’m not up for carrying a used lunchbox all over campus, but if others are doing it, then good for them. Maybe they could motivate and convince people like me to join the cause,” said Bryce.
Despite mixed feelings from students, Volnick is confident that the container program will be successful.
“We feel that this program, coupled with all of our other past [environmental] programs — including cage-free eggs, growth-hormone-free meats, recycled paper goods [and] safe-caught seafood — really enhances our food services program,” said Volnick.
Why is polystyrene bad?
Polystyrene is a material that is not easily recycled because of its light weight and its low scrap value. Because polystyrene doesn’t weigh a lot, it can float on water and can easily be transported by the wind, often polluting shores and waterways. If polystyrene reaches any body of water, it can break down into smaller pieces and be eaten by marine life.
Polystyrene is not only harmful to wild animals if they ingest it, but it can also be harmful to your own health. Any type of plastic foam cup or food container with the recycling code “6″ on the bottom of it contains styrene, which is used to make rubber. When heated, it can release toxins that can lead to long-term effects on hormone functions.
Polystyrene is non-biodegradable and can take a long time for the earth to break down.
Did you know?
FAU students purchase about 800,000 meals on campus every year. Out of those 800,000 meals, about 30 percent of them are to-go meals. That means about 240,000 eco-unfriendly polystyrene to-go containers are thrown away every year, unable to be recycled and eventually ending up in a landfill.
[Source: FAU Business Services ]
If you’re interested in joining the container program, go to the Center Marketplace at the Boca campus and ask them to start you up. It’s $5 you’ll be paying to help our environment. If you’re also interested in getting involved in Mission Green, you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.