Culinary Arts Changes For the Planet, For the People

we cultivate environmental stewardship poster

I’ve been working in Culinary Arts at MPTC since 2014 as an Instructional Aide. In my position I order food and supplies for the students and the department, in general. From the very beginning I have been considering our ‘single use’ containers; so many were going out the door as we sold our Culinary Creations or when Community Classes took their food home!

I kept thinking:

  • Are the containers safe to microwave? We know people are going home and reheating the food in that plastic container.
  • Are the containers being disposed of properly?  We actually had complaints that our labeled containers were blowing around someone’s yard! 
  • Are the containers reusable, compostable, recyclable?

Since 2006, MPTC has been composting food scraps; first in the MPTC Garden and currently, an area chicken farmer picks up the scraps to feed his brood.

In 2015 MPTC earned the designation (and distinction) of becoming the first Fair Trade Technical College in America thanks, in large part, to the work and determination of Anne Lemke, MPTC Experiential Learning Coordinator.

I was inspired to work toward a Diversity Certificate by Anne’s commitment and all of the Fair Trade Principles, in particular the 10th Fair Trade Principle of Respecting the Environment, incorporating our disposable containers.

All of these thoughts churned in my brain so finally I made the move! I said to the instructors, “We’re going to make a change in our packaging.” I started ordering paper (recyclable and compostable) take-out containers instead of the plastic, hinged containers.  I ordered paper bags to carry items home versus the plastic “Thank You” bags that are not compostable. I verified that the plastic containers that we use are microwave oven safe.

Along the way I’ve realized a willingness by staff and the public to get on board with the changes. In addition, there’s been a cost savings to the department. We have seen a 15% drop in the money spent on these items. The money saved goes toward needed supplies for our students and instructors and all because of the Fair Trade Principle of Respecting the Environment!

This past March Anne attended a Fair Trade Conference in Chicago and shared her favorite quote from the Conference. It’s important to share and the quote imparts how I feel about the changes in the Culinary Department: “…at the heart of Fair Trade is the dignity of all people. How are we living our values? How are we showing up? …Be curious. Find out. Do something.”

I hope that we all consider, share, and show up when it comes to choices as they affect our environment. We don’t have to start a movement but we can all take and learn little bits of information to participate in respecting each other and our world.

Please take a look at the websites that provide area recycling programs and Fair Trade information.

World Fair Trade Organization
One Plastic Bag, Earth Day Facts
Fond du Lac Extension Area Recycling
Waste Management Recycling Services

Come to our displays at each campus cafeteria between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Beaver Dam – April 8, West Bend – April 15 and Fond du Lac – April 22nd – EARTH DAY! Be Inspired!

Written by Maryann Huth