ELMHURST – Freshman students and their parents invaded Elmhurst College's campus in droves Wednesday morning. After unloading packed cars into their new dorm rooms, they sat down to a well-deserved lunch.
"It's been hectic," said freshman Deanna Jones with a smile on her face.
The campus hosted its first ever no waste lunch Wednesday, featuring compostable napkins, plates and silverware. The sustainable and eco-friendly lunch was more than just a creative welcome for new students.
"It's ultimately the right the to do," said Travis Orman, director of Dining Services at the college.
The Living Green Team, a federal work program of student volunteers, routinely monitors trash cans in campus dining facilities. The educational ambassadors helped diners sort their waste into the proper receptacles.
Residence Life members manned the trash cans at the Freshman lunch, though. Apartment Residence Adviser Katielyn Heffner encouraged diners to dispose of everything in the compost can with only a few exceptions. Mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise packets were not made of compostable material and were landfill waste.
"Look at what gets thrown in the garbage every single day," said Orman. "It's quite staggering."
Maria Solorio, president of the Elmhurst GreenJays, a student-run sustainability club, was thankful Styrofoam cups were nowhere to be seen. Instead, beverages were served from barrels into compostable cups made from cornstarch. Plates and cutlery made of plant-based material were also composted.
For more than a year, Elmhurst College's food service contractor Chartwells has been composting non-reusable food waste like the ends they cut off of fruits and vegetables.
Recently, the college received a $28,782 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's competitive Food Scrap Composting Grant Program. Along with a $7,000 contribution by the college, the money will go towards the purchase of a powerful grinder to improve composting efforts.
Grinding bowls, plates and other items made of compostable material will make it easier to collect compostable waste and quicken the decomposition process.
Once the grinder is operational this fall, the college is predicted to generate as much as 900 gallons of compostable material and food scraps per week.
Sophomore Jacob Henry brought the idea of transforming the traditional freshman lunch into one without waste to the Sustainability Committee last spring. He wanted to show parents and new students just how active Elmhurst College promotes green lifestyles on campus.
"An event this public should mimic what we do everyday," said Henry.