Campus-endorsed restaurants fail to provide sustainable packing despite campus actions

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SUNNY AHN / THE FLAT HAT

Sustainability on campus has become very relevant in recent months due to the increasing appearance of pseudo-environmental justice warriors, complete with the crusade against plastic straws. On campus, it is easier for students to keep with the status quo, as dining options have reusable or compostable dishes, and recycling bins galore. However, when one steps off campus, they enter the world of single use items, such as plastic utensils and Styrofoam coffee cups. It’s understandable that this will happen to some degree everywhere in the quote-unquote real world, but how does the College of William and Mary explain itself when it pairs with these locations as off-campus retail dining options, most notably Chick-fil-A and Domino’s?

Domino’s is perhaps the lesser evil of the two, as its most popular commodity comes in recyclable cardboard boxes, albeit only if they are not too grease-stained by the end of their use. If any parts of the boxes have food stuck to them, or are grease-stained, these portions must be thrown away rather than recycled, which lowers the overall sustainability of the practice, though it is possible to compost if you have easy access to a compost bin. Like any fast food restaurant, they also have spoons, knives and forks made of plastic for their customers’ use, all of which cannot be recycled and take years to decompose fully in a landfill.

Chick-fil-A also has single-use plastic utensils, but they have a large number of other sustainability problems that outweigh this. The most pressing sustainability issue is the use of Styrofoam cups, which can take thousands of years to fully break down, if not a million. In the process of breaking down, they can have catastrophic effects for both wildlife and the environment. Even if Chick-fil-A were to transition to recyclable plastic cups, the Tribe Square location offers no recycling bins in store. This means that other recyclable items, such as salad containers and paper bags, overflow into the trash bins and are ultimately landfill bound.

Perhaps even worse is the fact that the restaurant location itself recycles nothing on a large scale, as evidenced by the large number of cardboard shipping boxes found in the dumpsters behind Tribe Square. As the majority of the food at Chick-fil-A is cooked in oil, both the restaurant and the environment could improve by recycling the used cooking oil. Chick-fil-A could also greatly benefit from composting, due to their large degree of food waste such as lemon peels and leftover lettuce.

In light of the five-year sustainability plan outlined by the College, it is shocking that nothing has been done to rectify these unsustainable practices. Many of the issues that are tangential to the large sources have been semi-identified by the College within the plan, but nothing tangible has been produced. This tendency to focus on symptoms rather than root causes is rampant in sustainability issues, such as the mentioned straw crusade of 2018 and 2019. If the College is intent on continuing the partnership with these two locations, they should make sure that the restaurants are remaining in accordance with our sustainability plan, or discontinue their formal sponsorship of Domino’s and Chick-fil-A.

Email Elaine Godwin at

sgodwin@email.wm.edu.