HDH’s Habits Encourage Waste, Swipe and Swipe Again

Photo of Roger's Market taken from UCSD Housing Dining Hospitality website.

$7 box of cereal—check. Three bananas—$1.50. Sounds about right. $6 bag of grapes—but, of course. Insert all other items as applicable to you. Tap, Tap, Tap.

That’s really all it takes these days to use your ID at a dining hall or market. The ease with which students are able to purchase things has significantly numbed the effect of the exorbitant price tags. While the rational and rather frugal side of our ‘broke-college student’ brains would probably be horrified at the price of these items if seen at Ralphs or Trader Joe’s, dining dollars have desensitized us. Maybe we all resisted in the beginning but now…does anyone even look at the prices anymore?

How can a system linked to a tiny plastic rectangle with—more often than not, a horrible picture of you—be so addicting? The answer is simple. Dining dollars have become what I like to call a monopoly money equivalent, its inability to be used outside of campus the most compelling characteristic. The system, on one hand, is fun and fresh. Your ID takes the form of a credit card with no credit buildup! But it simultaneously induces an irresponsible spending pattern: as a currency, dining dollars are both valueless and valuable, in a nonsensical way.

One would think, when considering UC San Diego’s declared goal of reaching zero waste by 2020—the #MyLastTrash Campaign—that eliminating waste and encouraging sustainability would be a priority. And yet, UCSD’s Housing Dining Hospitality (HDH) system generates quantifiable waste. Case in point: the unnecessarily packaged, pre-chopped vegetables in the markets, when their original forms would suffice.

Relying on overly-packaged products seems counterintuitive especially when considering mainstream Californian values. Having grown up in Colorado, I can see an obvious difference in effort when it comes to being environmentally-conscious. For instance, charging for plastic bags in California is a noble cause. However, the sentiment behind this statewide ban simply does not translate when it comes to HDH’s plastic usage.

Sure, HDH has officially made it so that dining dollars roll over into the consecutive fall quarter. Changing the system has been a good step in the right direction. The pressure to deplete your dining dollars balance by the time spring quarter rolls around has hopefully been alleviated, bringing about a modicum of waste reduction.

But the rolling over of dining dollars won’t be able to offset waste stemming from the convenience of the markets. Dining dollars make it easy to purchase more than necessary, often leading to portions we are unable to finish. It does nothing to address the painfully wasteful plastic packaging of broccoli, mushrooms, and bok choy. To be mum about the misguided sacrifices being made by HDH is a disservice to this campus and this environment. Let’s face it, chopping onions isn’t rocket science, and HDH needs to be better.  

Sahana Narayan is a Staff Writer for The Triton.

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