O Gustieware, where art thou?

Jonas Doerr-

Is it in the Caf? Is it in Beck Hall? Is it true you don’t know where your Gustieware is at all?

Is it in the Lib? Is it in the trash? Is it possible you’re really wasting your own cash?

Bad poetry aside, your Gustieware may have escaped even further than you would imagine. Some abandoned Gustieware has been known to haunt the residence halls of Bethany College, according to some photographic evidence. How could it get so far away when our campus is filled with cute little bins dying to house some dirty Gustieware?

The answer is simple. Gusties are not returning their Gustieware.

Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services (including Dining Services) Steven Kjellgren said the lifecycle of Gustieware is on average about 15-20 uses each and costs between $4 and $6. However, he adds, “Presumably, they could be reused hundreds of times, but they find new homes off campus or thrown in the trash.”

That means that if Gusties returned their Gustieware, it would reduce waste by perhaps 90%. A 90% decrease in waste would be the same as if everyone went from filling up their trash cans once a week to needing 2.5 months to fill them. Of course, it would get rather stinky after that long, but waste would sure go down. So why not take the solution where nothing has to be stinky and return the Gustieware? Someone will even clean it off for you!

Not only will it reduce waste, it will save you money. If we continue to lose Gustieware, it might not come back. Student Senate Environmental Sustainability Chair Laura Sunnarborg says, “We don’t know yet if this is going to influence any future purchasing decisions on Gustavus’ behalf; however, the financial aspect would favor not re-buying more Gustieware in the future if students continue to not return it.”

If Gustieware goes away, everyone will be forced to pay $0.50 for compostable clamshells to hold their food to-go. For three meals a day, 30 times a month, that’s $45, and it’s close to $180 for a semester. Is that a price you’re willing to pay? This doesn’t even take into account the cost of each piece of Gustieware, which students also pay. Considering that most student workers make about $10 per hour, by returning Gustieware you can save in 30 seconds what takes you 30 minutes to earn.

It also avoids the environmental impact of throwing away clamshells. “It is much better for the environment to use and reuse Gustieware, and it is cheaper for students,” Sunnarborg said.

Although using and returning Gustieware is almost always the better option, sometimes clamshells might be useful. For example, since elephants are endangered, carved giant clam shells are used as a substitute for ivory. While carving one of the Caf’s compostable clamshells to make fake ivory might not make sense, some of the things people do with them make even less sense.

For example, I took a stroll around several buildings and glanced in the trash bins. It was smelly, but I was willing to make that sacrifice for you, reader of the noble Gustavian Weekly. In the trash bins were clamshells. This would not be strange, except for the fact that the trash bins were typically connected to a compost bin. Composting the clamshell would have required the extra arm movement it takes to put a burrito in your mouth. This situation was highly disappointing, but in residential halls, things might be worse.

According to research done by the hard-working Sustainability Interns on campus, 8 out of 12 residence halls had contamination rates of 45% or higher in their waste bins. Also, this data was taken during the Inter-Waste Sorting Challenge, during which people might have been trying harder. To add to that, compost bins were often at 0% contamination, meaning the contamination rates of the garbage and recycling bins were likely much higher than 45%. All in all, it seems like Gusties in these residence halls would have had more success sorting their waste if they had just opened their windows and tried to toss it into the right bin outside.

This is not meant to disparage Gusties. Many are trying very hard, and they are making a difference. For example, the Sustainability Interns are constantly trying to promote better waste sorting; if you’d like more helpful tips, check out their Instagram @gacsustainability.

If you do have to take a clamshell instead of using Gustieware, it’s okay. You don’t need to feel ashamed unless you took one and then decided to eat in the Caf. That’s odd – sort of like putting on shoes to walk to the other side of your dorm room. But if you do take one, make sure it gets into the compost bin.

It can be a mental battle to walk that far. Even Student Senate co-president and Sustainability Intern Gabe Maurer understands, saying that if you’re in your dorm and need to take the clamshell all the way to the compost bin outside, “It isn’t reasonable to expect every student to take their clamshells so far.” He adds, “The largest reason why people refuse to throw away their clamshells is convenience. The compost bin is further away than the trash can.”

Of course, students do have a personal compost bin in each dorm room, but it can be hard to fit clamshells into it. “Crush your clamshells, people! Give them a nice squeeze before you throw them away or even rip them up into pieces,” Sustainability Intern Tessa Yeager said. This can help them fit into the bins better and save a long, long walk outside.

And in case you skip the Caf altogether and order Domino’s, that too can go in the compost bin! Pizza boxes are not recyclable due to the food left inside them, but they are good for slowly rotting into farmable topsoil.

Don’t worry, that was a lot to consider. To summarize, if possible take Gustieware and return it promptly. If not, make sure the clamshells or pizza boxes get in a compost bin. If it sounds simple, that’s because a lot of people have been working hard to make it easy for you.

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