UT Division of Housing

Ph. D. student Soo-hyun Yang throws away her trash in a compost bin at Littlefield Cafe.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The UT Division of Housing and Food Service is teaming with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce its food waste by 5 percent in one year.

The department announced Friday its participation in the EPA’s national Food Recovery Challenge, which tasks participants with decreasing food waste by reducing unnecessary consumption and increasing composting and food donations to charity. The EPA estimates 34 million tons of food are wasted annually in the U.S., much of which ends up in landfills and becomes a significant source of greenhouse gases.

DHFS environmental specialist Hunter Mangrum said the department has been working to reduce food waste for many years by introducing single-stream recycling in dorms, composting, monitoring purchasing and donating over-produced food. Mangrum said it is important that UT be a leader in developing and implementing projects aimed at sustainability and waste reduction.

“In my opinion, this is a global issue, and we are a part of an institution that is globally minded. Thus, it is our responsibility and deep-rooted desire to help better humanity,” Mangrum said. “And I believe here at UT is where so much of that can be fostered, practiced and then shared with the rest of the world.”

While DHFS has not announced any new programs to ensure it meets the program’s 5 percent reduction goal, Mangrum said the resources the EPA will provide through the Food Recovery Challenge may bring added efficiency and new ideas to the department. One such resource that DHFS will use is the WasteWise Re-TRAC, a data managing and reporting system that records and tracks waste generation and reduction activities.

In participating in the Food Recovery Challenge, UT joins Rice University, Baylor University, University of Houston and UT-Arlington, becoming the fifth university in Texas to make the pledge to reduce food waste.

EPA environmental engineer Golam Mustafa said UT will be a valued participant because of its large-scale dining and food operations and the opportunity to educate students about environmental sustainability.

“The reason we are approaching universities is because it’s where our future generations will be educated,” Mustafa said. “They will be taking care of the environment. In our society we waste a lot of food because food is cheap here and it is a very small percentage of our total income compared to Third World countries.”

Mustafa said the 5 percent reduction goal is not binding, and the resources offered by the EPA will continue to be available after a year.

Collin Poirot, political communications senior and assistant director of the Campus Environmental Center, said the University’s decision to take part in the EPA program has partly to do with student advocacy for the issue. The Campus Environmental Center is a sponsored student organization that works to educate students on environmental issues and develop sustainability projects on campus.

“The fact that UT-Austin, one of the largest universities in the country, is helping to lead the way on the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge shows that the administration has listened to student concerns,” Poirot said. “More and more universities across the country are realizing that students want to live somewhere that offers them the opportunity to live sustainably.”

Resident advisor Eileen Kao explains how single stream recycling has been implemented into the dorms. Residents now have a single blue bin for all recycling needs instead of having to sort through recycled matter between two bins.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

UT Division of Housing and Food Service is implementing single-stream recycling to encourage students and staff to dispose of waste properly.

University officials hope to decrease the campus’ trash output by commissioning a study of how waste is disposed, which will conclude by the end of the fall semester.

Karen Blaney, assistant manager in Campus Planning and Facilities Management, said UT produced 140,000 pounds of trash per week, but only 66,400 pounds of recyclable waste per week during the spring semester.

“We have some work to do,” Blaney said.

She said the University will advertise its proposal for the study to contractors in the next few weeks.

Blaney said the study will analyze, among other factors, how much recyclable material is being disposed of in trash bins instead of recycling bins, and how much food waste is being disposed of in trash and recycle bins instead of being composted.

She said the contractor will analyze the waste output from academic and administrative facilities, and will include the athletics department and University Unions, if those departments decide to participate in the study.

Last spring, the Division of Housing and Food Service implemented a recycling program that provides two waste bins in residential halls: one for trash and one for paper, plastic and aluminum waste.

Scott Meyer, director of dining services at DHFS, oversees the division’s sustainability initiatives and said on-campus residence halls originally provided three cans for waste disposal: one for trash, one for paper waste and one for plastic and aluminum waste.

Meyer said he hopes consolidating recycling bins will encourage students and staff to recycle more frequently because they do not have to sort waste themselves.

Social work freshman Adilene Muñoz lives in Jester Center and said she does not currently recycle, but that single-stream recycling bins may encourage her to do so.

“I guess I’m just lazy about it,” she said.

Many of us have been there; if not, we’ve all heard the horror stories: strange noises filtering through the walls in the middle of the night, uncomfortable scenes upon a roommate’s unexpected return or even that awkward feeling of knowing that someone is sharing your roommate’s bed just a few feet away. When someone breaks the residence hall rules and sneaks in a boyfriend or girlfriend for the night, things can get uncomfortable or even downright unbearable.

In just a few short months, however, the ban against these furtive trysts will be lifted. Last week, the UT Division of Housing and Food Service, in cooperation with the University Residence Hall Association, notified residents that next fall, “all residence halls with the exception of Prather and Littlefield will have ‘no gender restriction’ guest policy.’” As always, roommates will have to consent to any overnight stays and sign a written agreement, but now visitors of the opposite sex may stay up to three consecutive nights.

This news comes as a welcome relief to some students and as an outrage to others. Many worry that UT’s liberal policies have finally been taken too far. Does the University encourage risky sexual activity among its residents, most of whom are underclassmen? It seems unlikely. Besides, anyone who really wants a significant other to spend the night will find a way to make it happen, regardless of residence hall policies. Students should view the gender-blind guest policy not as a University-sponsored encouragement of bad behavior but as a step toward modernity and equality.

First, we can’t assume that every visitor of the opposite sex is there for fornication. To achieve true equality, modern society must place less emphasis on physical characteristics such as gender and more on individual attributes, including the ability to exercise self-control and form platonic friendships. From a more practical perspective, out-of-town guests shouldn’t have to pay for a hotel room simply because they’re visiting a student of the opposite sex.

More importantly, this policy represents a nod toward the LGBT community. Under the current rules, gay and lesbian students can have significant others spend the night, but straight students cannot. The new policy should not be interpreted as the University saying, in effect, “If they can have boyfriends or girlfriends as overnight guests, the straight students should be able to as well.” Instead, the gender-blind policy recognizes the legitimacy of same-sex couples. Allowing them to spend the night together while straight couples cannot ignores and undermines the validity of same-sex relationships. To disregard the implications of current rules for same-sex couples is to suggest that their relationships either are not as “serious” as straight couples’ or do not pose many of the same risks. In order to equalize rights for students of all sexual orientations, the University could either place a ban on all overnight guests or lift the gender restriction. The new policy extends rights rather than revoking them and reflects the University’s high opinion of its students as principled adults.

Of course, mischievous students can find a way to abuse any overnight guest policy, and the new gender-blind rule is not likely to reduce the frequency of uncomfortable roommate run-ins. However, students should appreciate the new policy for its egalitarianism and respect the residence halls’ guidelines to ensure that it remains in place.

Oliver is an English and sociology freshman.