Widener Dining Collaborates with Student to Reduce Plastic Bag Usage in Pride Café

By Jessica Reyes, Assistant Director of Communications
Two people hold reusable bags in front of a sign

A student-led green initiative is reducing plastic consumption in the Pride Café by giving diners the option to skip the plastic bag for mobile food orders.

“Small actions can lead to big changes,” said Jessica Feoli ’21. “We have to focus on individual actions in order to make systemic change in our community and to address climate change worldwide.”

Reusable bags are stacked on a table in a dining hall

Feoli, an international business major and Spanish minor who graduated in May, approached Chrystina Kovatich, the general manager of Widener Dining, to brainstorm ways the university’s dining locations could offer more sustainable, green options.

The result was a two-part initiative aimed at reducing plastic bag consumption during Earth Week 2021 and all year round.

First, Widener’s Pride Café gave away 500 reusable bags made of recycled materials to students ordering food to go during Earth Week in April. The bags were purchased using a UPS grant secured by Feoli. 

Then, to create a long-term impact, the dining team came up with the idea to allow students on the ‘Dining Sidekick’ food-ordering app to select whether they will bring their own reusable bag or use a plastic bag to pick up their meals.

Sign about reusable bags stands in dining hall

“It keeps plastic bag consumption front and center on every student’s mind as they place an order,” Kovatich said.

Feoli agreed, and said the app selection makes it easier for students to make the green choice.

“If you give people the option between a green choice and a detrimental one, they will go for the more sustainable, green option,” Feoli said.

The combined effort eliminated the use of 2,000 plastic bags from the highest-volume dining location in one week alone, Kovatich said.

These types of student-staff collaborations are a hallmark of Widener and serve to improve the student experience on campus, while also creating long-lasting environmental and social change.

Kovatich said the collaboration with Feoli was a highlight of the project.

The project allowed us to see things through the student perspective to make sure the initiative would be realistic and maintainable for students. Widener Dining loves innovating with the community and coming up with creative ways to make a long-term impact. — General Manager Chrystina Kovatich

Aramark, the university’s food service provider, recently shared about the initiative on its blog as a model for how universities can reduce single-use plastic. 

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