By BYRON KITTLE
The Student World Assembly (SWA) met with the manager of the West Campus cafeteria on Oct. 28 for a follow up meeting after their successful push to replace polystyrene cups with papers ones.
The SWA was joined at the follow up meeting by Director of Student Activities Michelle Brinck, the Norwalk Community College Committee for Active and Responsible Environmental Sustainability President Lois Aime, SWA faculty advisor Robert Emigh and Student Government President Evan Christiano.
The purpose of the meeting – the third between the SWA and cafeteria – was to increase the number of environmentally friendly, or “green,” products the cafeteria uses.
The two previous meetings between the SWA and cafeteria owners resulted in the replacement of polystyrene cups, which the SWA claimed were harmful to the environment, with paper cups.
Peter Vlandis, the cafeteria manager, had originally decided to raise prices on drinks by 10 cents to pay for the new paper cups from Baronet, which, according to Vlandis, were more expensive than polystyrene cups. However, he said that he was able to find paper cups from another vendor, Housatonic, that were cheaper than Baronet.
Although Vlandis said the Housatonic cups were still more expensive than polystyrene cups, he decided not to raise prices.
The Voice originally reported that the cafeteria was switching to the Baronet cups, a fact that was not missed by students.
According to Vlandis, Dean of Administration Rose Ellis called him after the Oct. 19 switch to paper cups and said that students had complained because the cups did not have the Baronet logo.
According to Bepin Mgushi, the SWA president, his next goal is to replace polystyrene plates and plastic utensils with “green” versions.
Vlandis said that replacing plastic forks and knives with versions made from biodegradable corn solids was difficult, due to how much more the corn-based utensil cost.
“Right now we’re paying $8 a box for 1000 [forks],” said Vlandis. “The green product is $36 a box for 1000, so it’s four times the cost. That’s pretty hefty.”
In addition, Vlandis said that replacing any utensils or plates would require price increases on meals, because student use multiple items to eat them.
“If you order the hot meal, you’re going to use a 9” plate, a fork and a knife, so you’re using three items,” he said. “That will probably go up to $6 from $5.75.”
Vlandis said that any proposed changes would take weeks to decided on.
“I have to sit down and look at it,” he said.
One of the issues that Vlandis mentioned was how students will react to price changes. Although Vlandis said that the cafeteria is raising prices only to cover costs, not make a greater profit, students would likely complain.
“We’re probably going to see some backlash from people. They might be upset,” he said. “Why is the price going up? It’s really important that they all understand that this is why. It’s not that I’m making more money, I’m just adjusting the cost based on the green products.”
The SWA’s other main goal, Mgushi said, was to introduce travel mugs that could be sold to students so that they would not have to use a disposable cup.
To encourage students to buy the mug, Aime suggested that a discount on drinks be offered to anyone who bought one.
Vlandis agreed to a small discount, but only on mugs he, the SWA, or the Student Government had ordered.
“We have to make sure someone’s not bringing in a 24 oz. thermos and filling it with coffee,” he said. “We’ve have some faculty bring coffee cups in, fill it with coffee and put 50 cents on the counter and walk away. And we’re like, no.’”
Another issue brought up by Aime was that switching to recyclable products would not help the environment if students did not use recycling cans.
“Right now, what’s in there, as far as I’m concerned, isn’t working because the [cans] are all together,” she said. “And people just throw everything in to whatever. That’s the issue. We need receptacles in there to be used.”
Another meeting between the SWA and the cafeteria will take place on Nov. 18.