I met with Scott Vadney, ’91, the general manager of Gracie’s, a few weeks ago to talk about the new reusable to-go containers that have been implemented by Gracie’s.

As the largest eatery on campus, Gracie’s can produce a lot of waste. Scott Vadney is leading a project to reduce this waste and make Gracie’s a more environmentally friendly eatery. This coincides with RIT’s general environmentally friendly campus mission, and so far the program has been tremendously successful.

Each year, Gracie’s used to order disposable to-go containers. These containers were compostable, however, no mechanism was in place to process the used disposable containers. When I met with Scott, he gave me a great visual about the actual number of containers that would be thrown away each year.

Picture this: if you were standing in the Gracie’s Dining room, the amount of to-go containers that were ordered would come up to just below your knees. Imagine basically all of Gracie’s filled with these sugar-cane throwaway containers to the point where you could barely walk. That’s how much material Dining Service’s project is projected to save.

The project was conceived and implemented quickly. Scott told me the plan was laid out in February, approved by May, and implemented in August. A turnaround time of that nature is fantastic, because there are things that can create roadblocks for quick finish times within large universities. By completing the project in such a timely manner, Grace Watson Dining is projecting to save tons of solid waste from going to neighboring landfills.

Now, when I talked to students about this project, most people had three main things to say. Above all, people were excited that RIT was taking the initiative to go green. It’s not every day we see large institutions push so heartily to promote environmental awareness, and the students I talked to appreciate the work that was put into making sure their environment was sustainable. However, some students highlighted some inconveniences. The containers were a bit smaller than the old containers, and sometimes when a student received a clean container, it would still be wet.

Scott addressed both of these points. First, the containers are a bit smaller (by less than ½ an inch in height), but he felt the inconvenience was offset by the huge impact they would have on the environment. Secondly, Scott told me that when the #5 Polypropylene material the containers are made of is first washed, there is a film on the surface of the container that grabs water. Because of this property, it takes longer to air dry. Scott has worked in the dishwasher business before coming to RIT, and mentioned how most companies have to deal with this problem, but typically, it goes away after a few dozen washes through the dishwasher.

Scott also mentioned that he wanted to see if this type of project could be applied to other eateries across campus, but there were some difficulties that were not present at Gracie’s. Grace Watson has been able to eliminate disposable to-go containers from their system, but other units might have to include both disposable and reusable to go containers. This is because people from outside RIT come to other eateries, while Gracie’s is mostly visited by RIT students However, he told me they are still looking into green initiatives across other parts of the campus for the upcoming years at RIT.

What is your opinion on RIT’s latest push to become more environmentally friendly? Tweet us @RITBehindBricks or comment below this post to share your thoughts.

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Written by: Dillon Lambe