Until about two weeks ago, USC Hospitality seemed to move the USC green initiative a step further. The efforts in question were extended to USC dining halls — Parkside Restaurant College and Everybody’s Kitchen. The dining halls replaced traditionally ceramic utensils with recyclable ones, an effort that, although well intended, was not sustained longer than a week or so.
The new utensils, though environmentally friendly, were not user-friendly. They were flimsy and hard to use. And just as suddenly as these changes were implemented, they were retracted.
Though the initiative seemed to be a move toward greener dining halls, it did not have the desired effect.
Economically and environmentally speaking, this action was more wasteful than USC’s previous utensil use. Buying utensils on a regular basis is not only costly but it increases a need for recycling. Compared with the previous costs of detergent and a few replacements for damaged utensils, these new costs outweighed the old.
Yet this was a realization USC Hospitality came to only after it had implemented its new initiative.
USC already has green dining hall policies, but they could use some improvement. Among other things, the dining halls participate in 100 percent grease recycling, post-consumer food waste recycling and use of recycled paper products.
USC Hospitality also supports the local community by buying 6 percent of its food and beverage products from local producers and donating unused prepared food to the Los Angeles mission. In terms of promoting healthier food options, the dining halls’ V2O Organics Program provides vegan, vegetarian and organic food options for diners.
Though these practices are commendable, they hardly measure up to some of the policies USC’s East Coast counterparts are implementing.
One of the best examples is Yale University. Yale ensures 40 percent of its total food purchases meet at least one of four sustainability criteria: local, eco-sensitive, humane and fair. USC’s 6 percent local food purchases look shoddy by comparison.
Yale is also currently working toward the goal of reducing its pre-and post-consumer solid waste produced in dining halls by 30 percent of its 2009 levels by June 30, 2013.
Yale also decided to reduce the number of required truck deliveries and make bulk purchases through consolidation.
USC currently has all of the resources it requires to make the move toward greener dining. We have access to a local community that can fulfill most of — if not all — our food needs, access to research and technology that can better help us devise environmentally friendly disposal methods, the required funding to implement green measures and an eager and cooperative student body that would gladly take up the cause.
We also have a mayor whose goals include making Los Angeles one of the greenest cities in the United States.
Though USC’s recent initiative was a definite step in the right direction, it would have been more effective had the university gone about it in the right way. There are greater and more effective changes that the administration can make in terms of green dining, and it would do well to learn from other institutions that have already exhibited success in this arena.
Maliha Siddiqui is a sophomore majoring in business administration.