Autumn Dixon

Recently Whittier College released newly-designed EcoBoxes to the Campus Inn (CI) in an attempt to improve upon food sustainability. The EcoBoxes will no longer have raised lids, preventing students from piling more food than needed into the box. This, in turn, decreases the amount of food taken and later thrown away by students. In addition to limiting food waste EcoBoxes are reusable, resulting in less landfill waste from one-time usage containers and to-go boxes. “I am really excited to see these boxes make the return to campus. We will immediately be able to see the impact on plastic [and] food waste as soon as they are back,” said third-year Alyssa Klinzing.

Klinzing has been speaking with Bon Appétit Director of Operations Lucille Alcaraz to learn about sustainable practices in the CI. Klinzing said the largest problem with circulating the EcoBoxes is that students often do not return them. “The key element in the success of these boxes is the return.Students should be returning the boxes as soon as they can,” said Klinzing. “You can even leave all your leftover trash in the dirty box, and the CI will take care of the cleaning.”  

While the new design of the EcoBoxes are a step towards food sustainability at Whittier College, many college campuses in the surrounding area have also implemented their own sustainability practices. Pomona-Pitzer College has a composting system, in which students compost their food scraps and napkins at the dish return in each dining hall. It is estimated that each week, over 1.5 tons of food waste is used in composting at Pomona’s on-campus Organic Farm. At University of California Berkeley, there is a clean plate promotion in which students get a prize for bringing a clean plate to the dish return. Berkeley also partners with Filta, a company which recycles wasted oil into biodiesel, to recycle their own used cooking oil. Filta collects the waste oil and converts it into biodiesel, reducing both waste and emissions on the road.

At Whittier College, in front of Wanberg Hall, there is The Sustainable Urban Farm (SUrF) which an environmental studies classes help to maintain. “[We are] responsible for working in the farm — [taking] care of the plants as well as [working] the composting that we have available in the garden,” said second-year Elyas Armstrong, a student in an environmental studies class maintaining the garden. The SUrF is an eighth of an acre micro-farm composed of raised beds and fruit trees. The farm is grounded in an emphasis on rehabilitating the soil, with the hope that students get to grow and eat the food produced.

With the goal of sustainability being to limit the amount of food waste from the CI, there is an on-campus group which puts leftover food to good use. The Poets Food Recovery Network (PFRN) works with Bon Appétit to collect leftover food, and donates it to the St. Matthias Church soup kitchen in Whittier. By the end of Fall 2017, PFRN donated 21,130.10 pounds of excess food.