Madeline stands in front of a food aisle
Photo: Neha Chollangi

Parkside throws weight behind cafeteria’s paperless plan

In Business & Technology /

By Neha Chollangi

A Ryerson student won $5,000 to reduce waste at the Parkside Student Residence.

Madelaine Hodges, a first-year theatre student living at Parkside, won the annual Chartwells campus contest for creating a sustainable campaign plan that involved replacing the cafeteria’s brown paper bags and plastic waste with grab-and-go lunches in reusable containers that residents can check out.

Parkside is a private residence that houses Ryerson students.

For over a month, the sustainable containers have been part of Parkside’s grab-and-go program.

A recent inventory check showed that close to 2,000 containers have been checked in and out over the past month.

“We were completely abolishing plastic wrap and paper bags which was immediate change and effect, so when the project was launched we automatically reduced waste,” said Hodges.

The Chartwells campus contest is an annual program that started in 2014. Jana Vodicka is the Chartwells manager of campus engagement and sustainability, who worked alongside Hodges to implement the plan.

Chartwells is a foodservice provider for post-secondary residencies across Canada. They provide to over 60 campuses, including Ryerson.

Vodicka said Chartwells received 10 applications from students this year for the contest. They picked a winner based on which plan showed the best practice in waste reduction and sustainability as well as something that is cost saving and educates students about sustainability.

“The sustainable containers produced tangible results,” said Vodicka.

“It’s difficult to convince people to use less energy because it’s an invisible force. But waste is something you are directly responsible for and it can be easily measured.”

Hodges said her passion for helping the environment has always been at the back of her mind, but with her busy schedule it was difficult to find an opportunity to give back.

Hodges’ plan didn’t need the full $5,000 of funding from Chartwells—only approximately $3,000. The majority of the money went toward buying containers and an iPad at the cafeteria, which residents use to check them out.

It takes 30 seconds to one minute to sign out a container, a system the residence plans to speed up.

Approximately 80 containers are checked out every day.

There is still a discussion on how to improve the tracking method for the containers. Currently, each has a number at the back which students must enter along with their information on the iPad before checking them out.

“It sounds like an easy plan in theory, to just replace all the paper bags with containers,” said Hodges. “But figuring out things like who took out what container, when was it returned, is it damaged, how long was it checked out for, or if they lost it, is an ongoing process.”

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