Encouraging Sustainability with Cookies by cameron merritt

AMHERST, Mass. – At the Sylvan Snack Bar in the basement of McNamara Hall at the University of Massachusetts, those who can bring reusable containers can walk out with a reward.

A reward that happens to come with chocolate chips.

The student-run co-operative offers a free cookie to customers who come in with their own reusable containers for their orders.

The practice, which was initially launched during the Fall 2015 semester by co-manager Emily Hartmann, has been one of the main steps taken by the student-run co-op to cut down on waste. They decided the trade off for a cookie was a good way to attract customers while doing so.

“Cookies are very low cost to us and relatively, our compostable to go boxes are on the more expensive side,” said Hartmann. “It doesn't cost us much to give out a free cookie rather than a to-go box and it encourages people to reuse.”

“Whatever the cost of the cookies, I think it’s worth it for us,” said co-manager Zack Peterson.

Sylvan Snack Bar co-manager Zack Peterson puts a sheet of cookies into the oven. (Photo/Cameron Merritt)

Hartmann, a senior Natural Resource Conservation major, has lead the efforts for sustainable practices at the Sylvan Snack Bar since first joining in the Fall 2015 semester, which she considers “very important” to her and has encouraged fellow co-managers to see the importance of it as well.

“I have a lot of admiration for the effort put into sustainability,” said Peterson, who believes individuals and businesses alike should make the efforts themselves to become more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

Some of the ways the Sylvan Snack Bar encourages sustainable behavior: (from left to right) along with trash, they offer recycling and compost disposal, an example of a reusable container encouraged by the Snack Bar, and a pile of reusable plates recently purchased for in house eating. (Photos/Cameron Merritt)

Sometimes, however, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.

“I think that it's difficult to encourage people to partake in sustainable practices at our business because it is usually not the most convenient behavior,” said Hartmann, citing how many students prefer the convenience of picking up to-go and eating in their dorms rather than bringing their own container or dining in-house with their new reusable plate program.

While Hartmann says she’s had trouble implementing some green policies, she believes most of her fellow co-managers are willing to support sustainable practices, especially when they’re both sustainable and cost effective.

“I think that the reusable plate policy has a lot of potential,” said Hartmann, adding she thinks customers “need a little push” to stay in the dining area and co-managers to remember to ask if they want food “for here,” but has high hopes for the future.

The Sylvan Snack Bar is open Sunday-Thursday from 6 p.m.-11:45 p.m.

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