The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

Lack of Transparency from Dining Services

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Dickinson’s campus life was extensive, particularly with the unprecedented changes and difficulties that occurred in Dining Services. The high rates of vacancies in necessary positions caused the campus community to rely on single-use plates, bowls, and utensils to serve food for an extended period of time. This was a temporary solution, meant to alleviate some stress on dining services and allow them to continue providing quality meals to Dickinson’s students.

However, this reliance on single-use products has not disappeared. Dickinson students still regularly see their meals served on paper plates. Dickinson’s process should be to gather all organic waste produced by Dining Services to be pulped and placed in green bins that go to the college farm. Once at the farm, it is meant to be composted, to create useful soil, or be put into their new bio-gas infrastructure and eventually be turned into a carbon-neutral energy source. However, this is not the case. When paper plates are thrown in the garbage, they instead go to a landfill, where they will eventually decompose to create methane, a potent greenhouse gas. 

As a way to mitigate this issue, Dining Services is required to report their composting data and landfill pick-up receipts to the Center for Sustainability Education (CSE). Once CSE receives this information, the interns analyze the data. Our current findings show that composting rates are down 66% from our pre-covid data, according to sustainability data collected by CSE interns. While Dickinson Dining refuses to acknowledge this decrease in composting, they continue to provide unsustainable options for students. For example, there are now more garbage bins available for students to dispose of their leftover food and single-use plates. 

This news is disheartening to hear, especially since Dickinson claims that their on-campus dining options are sustainable. There is also a common misconception among students that Dickinson composts 100% of their food waste, combined with signage used in the Dining Hall that supports this claim. Namely, there is a new sign promoting the college’s bio-gas systems on the farm and how it works. However, if only one third of the waste the Dining Hall produces is being sent to the farm, this is a form of greenwashing, or making their products and services appear much more environmentally responsible, in order to deceive consumers. Dickinson Dining Services should not be able to make these great claims, when they are, in reality, not meeting their goals. It is well understood that Dining Services is facing problems with staffing, but they should also make it clear to the campus community that this affects the sustainability of their practices. 

Furthermore, there is a lack of clarity and apathy on part of Dining Services surrounding concerns CSE has raised. As students and sustainability leaders on campus, we should know why our food waste is not being composted and how Dining Services is actively trying to fix this issue. Ignoring this fact, illustrates to students that we cannot trust Dining Services. We need more transparency about how and why they operate the way that they do. They should also  be held accountable in creating a plan of  return to the pre-Covid-19 protocols of composting all organic waste. This is the only way to truly fix the problems and create the sustainable dining options that most students  would love to see on campus.

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    Nick Smith-SebastoOct 30, 2023 at 6:04 am

    FOR Solutions offers patented, state-of-the-art, value-engineered, aerobic in-vessel rotary drum composting systems that are the perfect solution for campuses that want to manage sustainably uneaten food that is generated on the campus. I will be delighted to schedule a call or video meeting with campus representatives to explore how a installing a FOR Solutions composting system on the Dickinson College campus is the most economically and environmentally responsible way to recycle uneaten food.