Splinters for Sustainability?

Peyton Dripps, Senior Writer

Excited to come back to campus in late August, many students and staff were surprised when they walked to the condiment station to grab a utensil in the Bison. Not only were students shocked, but many laughed at the wooden utensils that sat before them. The black, plastic utensils that students and staff used every day in recent memory were gone. Many students on campus first assumed that the wooden utensils were just for temporary use. Maybe campus was low on utensils at the time? Could there be a shortage of plastic utensils nationwide?  Unfortunately, this was not a temporary change. Now in October, students and staff continue to use wooden utensils, and many have complained of splinters stuck in their tongues and having trouble eating meals with the dull instruments.  

Although wooden utensils are great and easy to clean after preparing a meal for a group of people, they are extremely unpleasant to use as a utensil while trying to enjoy a meal. As of the 2021-22 school year, the University decided to stop using plastic utensils and focus on a more eco-friendly alternative. Their alternative was the addition of wooden utensils in the Bison. According to those responsible for implementing the wooden utensils, it has been found that they are made from renewable and abundant materials, and they are natural and safe for students to use. How could using wooden utensils be “safe” if students and staff are complaining of finding splinters in their tongues after meals? Upset with the situation, students decided to ask the Bison workers what they thought of the situation, and their answers were surprising. Assuming that the Bison workers are all for the eco-friendly addition of wooden utensils, it was found that they feel the same way as the students. One Bison worker shared that every day, before putting the utensils out for the day, she checks every spoon, fork, and knife for sharp edges of wood that could cause students to have splinters. Not only is this extremely generous of this Bison worker, but she is taking time out of her day to ensure that students do not experience pain after eating meals. The Bison worker continued her discussion on the topic of wooden utensils and showed her secret stash of plastic utensils that she shares with her co-workers. In a cupboard, she has a plastic bag of regular, plastic utensils that she uses for every meal. She refuses to use the wooden utensils as they are unpleasant and hard to eat with.

During this conversation with the Bison worker, it was found that the University is not as eco-friendly as we thought. It was discovered recently that the University may not actually recycle, despite the recycling cans that can be found in every cafeteria or corner of the halls. Due to students dropping their garbage in the recycling bins either accidentally or on purpose, they have found no point in recycling. She explained that the school has made efforts to recycle, but it is almost impossible as recyclables are often denied when brought to the factories. Not only is this shocking, but it is disappointing. The University’s decision to transfer from the plastic to wooden utensils is understandable, but it is not practical for everyday life. The inconvenience experienced by students eating at the Bison as a result of the new utensils is proving to outweigh the value of the supposed sustainability efforts the University is claiming to adhere to. They must find better ways to become an eco-friendly environment other than forcing students and staff to use wooden utensils through implementing actual effective change, instead of performative sustainability that has created more problems for students than solutions for the environment.

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