Courtesy of Brandon Vick

His name is Oscar. He is an opaque green color, he doesn’t talk and he specializes in food storage. If you want to get technical, then you can call him Eco clamshellius — his scientific name.
However, Oscar is not your typical clam, but as the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary puts it, “a hinged container, case, or cover that opens like the shell of a clam.” In Oscar’s case he is a reusable to-go container, an eco-clamshell and as many would argue, “eco-friendly.”
Stop. Ponder. Why is this important? Oscar happens to be on the UR campus, and there are multiples of him — that’s why. Named by Team Green, UR Dining’s sustainability crew, Oscar arrived on campus in fall 2010.
Some students have argued that Oscar may not be as eco-friendly as we think he is. For one, it takes more energy and resources to make a clamshell than it does to make a plastic salad container or a non-recyclable paper plate. Secondly, the clamshell has to be washed every time you return it, using even more water and energy.
However, use Oscar enough times, and he not only saves the University money, a one-time investment, but the environmental effects suddenly look far less concerning than if you threw away your dishware every day.
This requires multiple uses of a clamshell and that is where the student body becomes so important. UR contributes an extensive amount of trash to landfills daily; the eco-clam shell program can easily cut down that amount of waste and the amount of resources consumed if everyone participates.
The process is simple enough. You buy into the program, a cost of five dollars for however long you stay at the UR, and you receive a key chain that you can trade in for a clamshell, whenever you want to use it. There is no washing dishes required — simply return it to an eco-clamshell bin and get a keychain back.
Since the program began there have been issues, but they are being tackled one step at a time. Students at the Dining Committee Meeting complained that the clamshells seemed dirty and difficult to find for instance. Then they were unhappy about the size of the key-chains. Complaints aside, unknown to most students is that this program is big. It is another step towards becoming a more sustainable campus.
Numerous campuses across the country including Duke University, Eckerd College, Baylor University, Notre Dame, University of Florida and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have implemented an eco-clamshell program. One of the first schools to recognize the environmental benefits of using clamshells was Emerson College. With the help of a grant from the Environmental Research and Education Foundation, Emerson became the first school to implement a reusable to-go container program.
On the UR campus, we should be able to have a program that works just as well. Dining has already ordered more clamshells, so there should be enough available at the cash registers in Douglass and Danforth dining centers and The Commons where students can use them. There are new drop-off boxes that are more visible and more aesthetically appealing than last semester, and more workers are becoming familiar with the program as well.
Although UR still has a ways to go, we are a step ahead of other schools, including the Ivy Leagues. But while UR Dining has done it’s part, students are really the main drivers of this program from now on. In other words; save a plate, re-use an eco-clamshell.
Goldstein is a member of
the class of 2013.

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