Closing of Hampshire Dining Common for Renovations this Semester has Not Only Affected the UMass Community but Sustainability Efforts as Well

Members of the University of Massachusetts Amherst community have noticed an alteration in sustainability with the closing of Hampshire Dining Common, located in the Southwest Residential Area, this semester.

Berkshire Dining Common, the most popular dining hall on campus, also located in Southwest, expected an increase in traffic among students when Hampshire closed. In an effort to reduce crowding at Berkshire, the University introducedHampden Dining Common, located below the Hampden Convenience Store, added hours at Berkshire, and gave students the option to use a Residential Meal Plan swipe at the Baby Berk and new Baby Berk 2 food trucks.

One of UMass’ efforts to lessen traffic at Berkshire was to provide more choices at Grab n’ Go locations. Sustainability has become a focus for the University, however, Hampden Grab n’ Go and the Baby Berk trucks provide students with plastic water bottles and soda cans for a meal swipe, contradicting the UMass Sustainability Mission Statement.

“We’d love to just have water coolers at Hampden Grab n’ Go but we want to give students an option. We don’t provide the water bottles and soda cans at Berkshire Grab n’ Go because it’s less of a carbon footprint and more sustainable,” said Tim Lane, Operations Manager at UMass Amherst.

Lane said that the installation of portable soda fountains into Hampden would have been an unnecessary renovation since it would only be used for one semester. The only way to provide students with beverage options was to resort to water bottles and soda cans.

“I think the fact that Hampden Grab n’ Go lets students take plastic water bottles and soda cans is a huge issue because with Hampshire closed, so many more people are using Grab n’ Go to avoid the crowd at Berkshire,” said Conner Kelly, a kinesiology major who has been working at Berkshire for almost two months.

“It is costing us more to have the water bottles and soda cans, but it was our best option. And, it is only for one semester,” said Lane.

Lane said that having the Baby Berk trucks outside and Hampden Grab n’ Go have both lowered the number of students in Berkshire, which was the main goal.

“I haven’t seen as much of a crowd at Berkshire because of both Hampden and the trucks, but the amount of waste being used is over the top and I think the plastic bags they use for Grab n’ Go are a big issue too,” said Kelly.

However, according to Lane, the objective is simply to feed as many people as possible. So with the addition of a new Grab n’ Go and the Baby Berk trucks, Lane said that students have more options and more variety when it comes to choosing their meals.

“I just think that the University could be doing more, like offering reusable drawstring bags or reusable water bottles. Having that Permaculture gardendirectly outside Hampden is a huge contradiction because of the damage being done,” said Kelly.

UMass has invested $15 million into the new “green” renovations at Hampshire Dining Common, which is expected to have a one-of-a-kind design with 15 different New England-themed options. The new D.C. will be a sustainable facility with recyclable Grab n’ Go containers and meals that are not only flavorful, but also healthy and environmentally conscious.

Kelly hopes that in the upcoming semester, the Dining Commons will return to their sustainable habits and that the carbon footprint left from Hampden and Baby Berk has only been a phase for the University.

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