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Boxed water has replaced bottled water in Frist Campus Center's food gallery.

By Albert Jiang

Campus Dining has implemented a series of changes in campus cafés and the Food Gallery of Frist Campus Center involving menu changes and an effort to promote plastic alternatives.

All plastic water bottles, bags, and utensils have been eliminated. Paper bags, as well as plastic and paper straws, are available only upon request. These changes will affect all retail locations including the Food Gallery, the C-Store, campus retail cafés and eateries, and all University-catered events. Additionally, silverware is displayed more prominently in the Frist gallery to promote the use of non-disposable utensils and containers, according to an email statement by Christian Vasquez, the director of retail and catering at Campus Dining.

“We recognize that plastic pollution is a complex global challenge. We wanted to identify ways that we could take first steps towards reducing plastic on campus,” Vasquez said.

Campus Dining estimates that waste from tens of thousands of plastic water bottles will be avoided this academic year.

“The University continuously looks for ways to be more sustainable and environmentally responsible,” Vasquez explained. “Whenever we make a change we need to take into consideration a number of factors — customer preference, product availability, taste, and sizing, to name a few. The biggest challenges involve educating consumers about the changes we’re making and why we’re making them.”

The switch from plastic water bottles to paper ones, called “boxed water,” has been particularly controversial.

“It feels like a milk carton. It smells like a milk carton,” Lydia Headley ’21 remarked. “It’s hard to hold in your hand. I understand that [paper cartons] are more sustainable, but they’re also a lot more inconvenient.”

She added that she feels the water cartons hold less liquid, and that she’s also less inclined to take a box of water to the gym.

However, other students were more accepting of the University’s sustainability initiatives. 

“I greatly appreciate that the school is addressing both the environmental and the health-related impacts of plastic bottles and utensils. Although drinking water from a box is a new experience, it is one that I am very willing to try,” Sarah Perkins ’21 said outside late meal with two water cartons in hand.

The changes have been discussed with the Office of Sustainability and the UN Environment Programme, according to Vasquez.

The Office of Sustainability told the 'Prince' they "concur with" statements made by Dining Services and that they "don't have any additional comments to add."

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