A casual observer of UVM’s dining services would be impressed with the environmentally friendly ways of eating at this University. Just one glance around the marche reveals compostable cutlery, biodegradable take out containers, and coming soon a farm stand of local foods. A closer look tells a lot more about these so-called green initiatives. In Brennans, there are even poetic stanzas written on the wall discussing the sustainability of the food it serves.
Despite the inspiring environmentally conscious rhetoric of dining services, the cutlery that was made from cornstarch for the sake of being biodegradable is no longer accepted in the compost. It was recently found that certain toxins which were used in the cohesion of the cutlery were not breaking down with the compost, and in fact contaminated a host of otherwise good compost. There is also the difficult ethical dilemma of using food products to make cutlery when there are still so many without enough to eat. Biodegradable takeout containers also have a dirty little secret that would make environmentalists cringe. These containers are in fact made from sugar cane farmed in the everglades of the southeastern United States. These carbon sinks are being slowly eroded by human demands. According the U.S. Geological Survey of 1999, over 50% of the everglades’ original area has been converted to agricultural or metropolitan areas. Are biodegradable take out containers really that environmentally friendly if they stimulate more demand for sugar cane, and with this demand the increasing profitability of destroying the everglades? UVM gets to further its image as a green university while a national treasure and carbon sink is destroyed.