GustieWare Update

Posted on June 16th, 2009 by

The following message is an excerpt from a curious party Re: “How did the GustieWare Program go?”:

Initially, the 2007-08 disposable use numbers were higher – don’t know why or who had bad data. Anyway, after we implemented the GustieWare program (2008-09), our disposable container use dropped 46% from 119,800 to 64,800. 55,000 fewer cardboard containers in the waste stream and littering our campus.

The program is remarkable on many fronts. First and foremost, it raises awareness of personal choices and environmental impact. The program is a very real and tangible way for our community to make responsible choices without sacrifice or inconvenience. An opportunity to look at everyday practices from a new perspective and to feel good knowing our actions make a statement of responsibility and stewardship.

Throughout the year, I received calls from across North America; from Alaska to Toronto to Ohio to Virginia to California to Illinois to New Hampshire and more asking for details about the GustieWare Program. Colleges, cities, hospitals, multinational corporations, public utilities and the US military all wanted to know how they might be able to implement a similar program and reduce their consumptive, waste stream generating, practices. Imagine 10x’s or 50x’s or 100x’s or even 1000x’s the 55,000 box reduction that we realized and the associated energy and lumber resource savings that might be accomplished as a result or our GustieWare program!

The NordicWare products that we dubbed ‘GustieWare’ are durable, lightweight, microwavable, and able to withstand virtually endless cycles through heavy duty warewashing equipment. The sizes we selected seemed to fill the take out needs of our students, faculty, and staff and we printed a Gustavus Recycle logo on the clear plastic covers to make them unique to us and as a reminder to return them for re-use. With most new programs, there is a fairly steep learning curve that needs climbing before declaring success or, well, not. At this point, I can deem the program successful with the caveat that the ‘take – use – return’ cycle will require constant reinforcement until such time that it simply becomes part of our individual and collective routine. This past year, we were much better at taking and using than we were at returning!

At year end, 1200 of the 5000 initial GustieWare containers can be accounted for. I assume some may have ended up in the trash, others lost or misplaced somewhere between here, there, and back again, and many fill the cupboards of off campus student houses and apartments and perhaps even ended up being self-presented parting gifts to our graduating seniors. The 76% shrinkage rate of the GustieWare inventory is clearly not ideal nor is it sustainable. Our education and marketing efforts of the program will continue.

Next academic year, 75% of our students and nearly 100% of our faculty and staff will be familiar with the GustieWare program. I am confident that our incoming class and new community members will embrace the program as one that ‘has always been’ and the return compliance will improve accordingly.

Gustavus is a community of forward thinkers and responsive/responsible activists. Like many other successful Gustavus programs, the GustieWare notion came from community input and will thrive on continued community embrace.


One Comment

  1. Gustie says:

    In order to improve the return rate, could you possibly use a scanning (or number system) that ties the particular gustie ware to the student/member account? It can still be free ware but would add some accountability. Realize not all have meal accounts, but it could help.