On Tuesday night, the University of Rhode Island’s Student Action for Sustainability club brought their own reusable dinnerware to The Ram’s Den dining hall in a peaceful protest to promote a more sustainable culture on campus.
The Ram’s Den, which has been open this year as a temporary dining hall during the renovations to Butterfield Dining Hall, has been using disposable plates, bowls, cups, and utensils for all meals. Although the main dining hall on campus, Mainfare, uses reusable supplies, the members of SAS feel that this practice needs to be carried over to The Ram’s Den.
“We want to create a culture of sustainability,” said SAS President Vanessa Garcia. They hope to create this culture not only in the dining halls, but all over campus in places like Dunkin Donuts or the Rhody Market.
“People usually ask ‘what is recyclable?’ If you just bring your own reusable cup, that breaks the barrier of not knowing what to recycle,” Garcia said.
Something many people don’t realize is that you can often get a discount on beverages like coffee when you bring a reusable cup, the members pointed out, which can be even more of an incentive.
“A lot of times people don’t mean to be wasteful, they just don’t have the tools and knowledge,” said SAS member Emily Tradd.
According to the group members, dining halls like The Ram’s Den do use compostable dinnerware, but the waste is just being thrown in the regular garbage, not in the proper receptacles.
“They have good intentions, they’re just not doing it the right way,” said Garcia.
The 4 members who took part in this act of protest on Tuesday said they received an overall good response from The Ram’s Den’s staff.
“We were making a statement,” said Tradd. “We weren’t sure how people would take it, but the workers were for it.”
The group went up to get their meals as they normally would at the dining hall, but just asked for their food to be served on their own reusable plates, and they filled their own cups for drinks.
Garcia said the group is hoping to do this throughout the semester, at least every other Tuesday night when they have their meetings. Last semester, SAS also worked on educating students about composting, and were very excited to find out recently that the state will make it mandatory for all major institutions, like URI, to start composting next year.
SAS was founed in 2009, and has since expanded its efforts on campus with this year’s Sustainability Week in October, as well as running Earth Day this coming Spring.