Kwantlen’s cafeteria’s environmental?

A Kwantlen student takes a close look at Kwantlen’s cafeterias to see what efforts are being done to reduce their impact on the planet.

By Catherine Thompson

For those that frequent Kwantlen’s cafeterias, you may have noticed the addition of steel cutlery accompanying the usual disposable wares. Embracing eco-friendliness seems to have seeped into Kwantlen; a garbage bin cheerfully encourages students to use ceramic mugs instead of Styrofoam cups which can live in a landfill for 500 years.

Quite a burden for that delicious in-between-class hot chocolate, eh? Napkin dispensers proudly boast 100 per cent recycled napkins from 70 per cent post-consumer content. Tally up those environmental brownie points and Kwantlen cafeterias have become eco-friendly converts!

These initiatives peeked my interest and although I certainly applauded the cafeteria’s efforts, I was skeptical that a university café would pursue ethically sourced products all in the name of environmentalism. Being a tree-hugger at heart, I was delighted to have my smug cynicism proved wrong.

I enlisted Bassanio Tsang, general manager of Sodexo at Kwantlen, to show me the ropes of Sodexo’s eco-initiatives. It seems that Sodexo doesn’t just stop at napkins and reusable forks: Tsang notes that Sodexo uses biodegradable soup bowls, cups, plates, take-out containers and sandwich wedges to lessen their impact.

To encourage thirsty and thrifty students, Sodexo provides a discount for customers that bring their own reusable mugs. If there’s anything to encourage you to bust out that embarrassing grade six pottery mug, saving some coin would be it!

Moreover, the Langley campus deli-bar uses seasonal produce from the horticulture department’s greenhouses; the coffee is fair-trade and Rainforest Alliance certified and the seafood follows Ocean Wise, a non-profit organization that strives to conserve aquatic life.

I also investigated into another popular haunt, The Grassroots Café, and examined their environmental practices. According to Adam Rhode, The Grassroots Café manager, all coffee cups and lids, even the Java jackets that save your hand from third-degree burns, are entirely compostable. The plate which hosted your grilled chicken panini is made from paper and pulpous fibers, making it compostable.

Of course not everything is sunshine, lollipops and compost bins: there are no composting facilities at Kwantlen, which is an extra challenge for those eco-minded folks at the Grassroots. The do-good intentions of the compostable plates and cups is stifled when they end up locked in a noxious landfill.

Food-wise, Grassroots seems to have it right: the coffee is free trade and organic, the bread is “100 mile Bread,” which is 100 per cent organic and produced within, you guessed it, a 100 Miles. The produce is from a local supplier and bought in season. Even the peppers are grown in Langley where rainwater collected in a retention pond is used to water them; then once harvested they are shipped in bleach-free cardboard containers free of herbicides or pesticides,

Rhode proudly notes that student feedback has been positive, receptive and generally appreciative of these efforts.

Channeling their inner David Suzuki isn’t always easy; Tsang remarks that acting eco-friendly “takes time, money and partnership.” While Rhode admitted that “buying organic, local food is hard,” but acknowledges that they must “bear the brunt” of these environmental initiatives in order for it to pay back later. Cheers to that, now excuse me while I go enjoy my free trade coffee.

Environmentalism never tasted so good.


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