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A Growing Movement in Sustainable Dining

Rendering of renovated Commons Dining Hall

A rendering shows the expanded Commons Dining Room, set to open in August.

Stetson Dining will switch from plastic straws to biodegradable straws this fall, another one of the environmental friendly practices being rolled out in eating establishments on campus.

When students return for classes in August, they will find a new Commons Dining Hall in the expanded and renovated Carlton Union Building. The new Commons will double the amount of seating and provide a number of meals stations where students can custom-order food and watch it be prepared.

The meal stations will include a stone-hearth pizza oven, a Mongolian grill, expanded soup and salad bar, and a G8 station that avoids gluten and eight top allergens, including nuts, shellfish, diary, soy and eggs.

Students have been asking for changes in the dining hall, including more seating, more food options and the ability to see their food being made in front of them.

portrait outside

Lynn Schoenberg

“This is what students are looking for when they go to a college campus and parents, too, want to feel like their children are well-fed and have a place where they can be with community,” said Lynn Schoenberg, Stetson Dean of Students.

“Food is so much a part of our lives and how we join with other people,” she said. “It is a big part of their wellness and their wellbeing.”

The new Commons also will expand on the environmentally friendly practices adopted by Stetson Dining Services in recent years.

Portrait outside

Taylor Gabriele-Goodwin

Taylor Gabriele-Goodwin, coordinator of Marketing and Finance for Stetson Dining, said the new Commons will use dishes made of ethically sourced bamboo and continue using napkin-tower dispensers that have reduced napkin overuse and waste by 62 percent, compared with placing napkin dispensers on every table.

The Coffee Shop Kiosk will relocate to a temporary space on campus this fall, until a new and expanded Coffee Shop opens in the CUB in January 2019.  The Coffee Shop Kiosk will switch from using plastic bags to paper bags, which already are in use in Einstein Bros. Bagels and Johnny Rockets in the Hat Rack.

The three eating establishments also will switch from plastic to biodegradable straws this fall while the Commons phased out the use of plastic straws last year.

“There’s a big movement for this now. Seattle outlawed them,” said Gabriele-Goodwin, referring to Seattle recently becoming the first major city in America to ban plastic drinking straws, which can make their way into oceans and rivers, and harm wildlife. “It’s a huge impact on the environment.”

Already, Stetson Dining purchases 32 percent of produce from local sources, ensuring its freshness and requiring less gas to deliver. Meats are produced without hormones, eggs come from cage-free chickens and coffee comes from socially and ecologically certified producers.

rendering of CUB when complete.

A rendering shows the east side of the Carlton Union Building when the renovation is complete by early January 2019.

The new Commons Dining Hall has installed a pulper machine that will reduce food waste from 12 garbage bags to one bag by extracting all the water. The Dining staff is talking to local farmers who want to use this food waste for composting or on their pig farm.

“We really are cognizant of food waste. We are a large-scale food operation and we can really impact the environment in this community,” said Gabriele-Goodwin, adding that the Commons serves about 800 meals a day.

Portrait outside with a ballcap and sunglasses on

Matinicus Csenger

Collectively, students can have a big impact on the environment through their dining choices, even if they don’t realize it, said Matinicus Csenger ’20, one of Stetson’s Environmental Sustainability Fellows.

“I don’t think most students are necessarily aware of the impact of using one plastic straw or a couple of plastic bags, but they get to take part in this, even if they aren’t aware,” he said about the dining changes. “That’s the beauty of altering the system.”