Green Beat: Interview with a Café Mac insider

By Emily Pancoast

Abe Levine ’11 works for Café Mac. Does he serve pasta? Walk around with a rag and wipe off the silver ledges? Refill the milk bags? Nope. He is one of the few students this year to hold one of the new work-study positions involving sustainability. Levine’s job encompasses a wide variety of responsibilities, from researching environmental initiatives to implementing projects. He surveys student interests using posters, online surveys, and talking to students eating in Café Mac.

He said he applied for the job because of his concerns about the environment and to be part of the newly formed Sustainability Office here at Mac. The sustainability director, Suzanne Hansen, and other sustainability workers are trying to create sustainability positions in every department.

“The staff are very receptive to environmental initiatives but already do so much in terms of sustainability and education and meeting student needs that it’s hard to come up with new sustainability projects,” Levine said.

This year, initiatives to cut waste include taking food waste to a pig farm and encouraging people to only take what they will eat. He believes communication and awareness are essential to curbing food waste.

Other projects include displaying student artwork around the cafeteria and posting biographies about the staff of Café Mac. Overall, he and other staff members want to make Café Mac a more enjoyable place to eat and to teach people to enjoy their food. Levine wants students to be “acquainted with the history of the food they’re eating,” because many problems of consumption and environmental degradation arise from alienation from food sources.

As a vegan, Levine is also concerned with reducing meat consumption in particular, because “it is one of the most harmful processes to the environment worldwide.”

The last issue that remains is the controversial Trayless Tuesday. Levine is surprised by how passionate students are on both sides. A number of schools, including the University of Minnesota, already got rid of their trays without asking their students and found that it dramatically reduced their food waste. Levine thinks that we should end Trayless Tuesday or take away trays all together because, he says, one day of no trays is not enough to show waste reduction.