The UW Green Blog

Corn Cutlery Controversy
October 17, 2007, 10:44 pm
Filed under: HFS

In typical Seattle fashion, rain began to pour during class Tuesday while I had been enjoying sunshine only minutes earlier. I had two hours until my next class and was picturing my umbrella lying tragically on the floor of my bedroom, unable to shield me from the evil droplets and preserve my good hair day.

My only choice was to dash to the nearest dining hall to keep dry, pass the time and eat something warm to counteract the drizzly weather.

My plateful of pasta was not as hot as I would have liked, but I learned later in the day that this might have been a good thing. Otherwise, my corn-based fork may have melted in my yummy alfredo.

New utensils made from corn have recently replaced plastic utensils in the campus dining halls, according to HFS (Housing and Food Services). The biodegradable corn-based cutlery can be tossed into a dining hall’s compost bin rather than be condemned to clog up a landfill like plastic utensils.

However, some complaints about the eco-friendly wares have surfaced. The Daily recently reported that students have experienced the cutlery melting when it comes in contact with hot food.

The Daily article ruffled the feathers of some members of SEED (Students Expressing Environmental Dedication), who in a meeting Tuesday discussed a letter they wrote to the editor concerning the new cutlery.

The letter asked The Daily to consider that although the corn-based utensils may not be perfect, they are a much better alternative to wasteful plastic cutlery and metal cutlery that students may accidentally throw away.

The biodegradable cornware “is a very, very progressive thing,” said McMahon Hall Resident Director Darcy Hume at the SEED meeting. “Of course there are going to be kinks in the system.”

Hume said HFS is working toward the satisfaction of residents, but other alternatives being considered may also raise concerns.

One of those alternatives, compostable wooden cutlery, would probably lead to complaints about splinters, said Hume.

It will be interesting to see what happy medium HFS can reach to please both hot-food-loving and eco-conscious students alike.


SEEDs of Change
October 17, 2007, 9:09 pm
Filed under: HFS, Student Action

Although I lived in the residence halls my first two years at UW, I had never heard of SEED (Students Expressing Environmental Dedication), a residence hall environmental group, until I noticed a poster advertising the group’s weekly meetings yesterday. I learned that SEED meets Tuesdays at 5:30 pm in McMahon Hall’s Pompeii Room, so I decided to check it out.

Upon entering the Pompeii Room, I met Chris Bruno, the director of SEED, who looked every bit the concerned environmentalist. I noticed his shoulder-length brown hair tied in a low ponytail and appropriately green t-shirt and knew I was in the right place.

Bruno told me that SEED is a registered student organization that has been around since the 2002-2003 school year. Funded by HFS (Housing and Food Services), it boasts an executive board of five students, and its weekly meetings attract about 25 people.

This week’s meeting drew 18 students, McMahon Hall Resident Director Darcy Hume and Karen Harris, a guest speaker representing KEEN Footwear. KEEN is a brand of “hybrid products that allow consumers to connect with the outdoors in its entirety,” according to its Web site.

Harris is a sophomore at UW and KEEN’s UW ambassador for their Hybrid.Stand College Campus Campaign (also known as STAND). According to Harris, STAND is a campaign to promote sustainability at 50 college campuses. The campaign includes three contests in which students can submit creative projects or statements to express their commitment to sustainability, positive environmental change and raising environmental awareness.

One person alone cannot save the world, but “there are little things we can do to inspire other people to help,” said Harris.

On Nov. 8, Harris will host a STAND event at the HUB to screen a documentary (appropriately entitled “STAND”) that illustrates what nine people have done to promote sustainability. Students in attendance can also vote for a campus organization to which KEEN will donate $1,000.

After Harris’s presentation, SEED members shared simple ways that they promote sustainability and help the environment. Some of these ways included:

* bringing their own coffee mugs to the dining halls
* putting their computers on standby when not in use
* reusing plastic bags
* turning off lights and electronics their roommates leave on

Students also brainstormed future projects and activities to work on. They mentioned:

* encouraging HFS to provide more reusable dishware in the dining halls
* trying to get students to use Nalgene bottles instead of buying bottled water with wasteful packaging
* creating incentives for students to recycle and compost
* working to make a garden accessible to students

The members of SEED seem very enthusiastic and committed to their cause. They are a welcoming, friendly group that has already made great strides in working with HFS to promote sustainability in the residence halls.