When West End Market volunteer Claire Beggs looked at the pile of to-go boxes in the dish cleaning area, one word came to her mind: “insane.”
Beggs, a sophomore economics and science major, spent approximately two hours helping West End employees clean behind the circular belt of the dish return. With each full rotation of the belt, Beggs and those working with her separated dirty to-go containers from the rest of the dishes.
“We started collecting and stacking (to-go boxes) to see how many we could get,” Beggs said.
They ended up collecting hundreds of Styrofoam containers.
“The number of boxes they see in the dish room is probably bigger than the number of plates used,” Beggs said.
Beggs and the other workers spread awareness for the amount of waste by taking a picture of the Styrofoam containers and posting it to Facebook, where more than 100 users shared it.
“In the dish room, everyone’s always talking about how there shouldn’t be so many (boxes),” Beggs said. “(West End) is a sit-down dining hall. There shouldn’t be a single box on the belt because, you know, they’re to-go boxes.”
Growing New Habits
On Aug. 2, 2010, Tech filled out a College Sustainability Report Card. The report said Tech spends $343,171 on locally and organically produced food, and $820 on locally processed food. This accounts for 9 percent of the approximate $4 million dollars Tech spent on food in the 2009-2010 academic year.
What that report card doesn’t show is the multitude of farmers who reach out to students at the weekly Blacksburg Farmer’s Market.
Lynn Chipkin was around when the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market was just a small mulch area on Draper Road. She owns and runs Indian Valley Farms, located in Floyd, Va., with Randy Cohen. Chipkin says the demand for local sustainable growth is rising.
“What’s really propelled the farmer’s market is this whole, national movement to be a ‘localvore’,” Chipkin said. “Every farmer’s market has grown.”
Indian Valley Farms grows a host of produce, raises chickens and harvests honey from their own bees. Chipkin said that she and Cohen take many steps to reduce their own carbon footprints, but even local farmers have a hard time doing so.
The biggest obstacle to Chipkin and Cohen’s sustainability is transportation — they drive an hour to get compost for their gardens. However, they prepare their own mix of soil and use drip irrigation to water their plants, which Chipkin said is more efficient than sprinklers.
“If we were just doing it to feed our family, we’d just do everything by hand,” Chipkin said,” but for growing enough to sell, it’s not practical.”