After three successful years of serving McGill students, the Plate Club has become a thing of the past. Students will no longer be able to go to the Plate Club to borrow dishware for lunch or events. Luckily for students the Plate Service will be filling that void.
In an effort to expand the Plate Club’s influence, the Students’ Society has adopted it, transforming the former club into an official service of the SSMU. The Plate Club was started in 2008 by Tim Dowling in order to cut down the amount of unsustainable plateware used by students and promote an overall greener campus.
The Plate Service plans to continue operations as usual, but will now have a larger budget that will allow for the purchasing of more inventory and, in turn, the lending of more sustainable dishware.
“It doesn’t change our mandate, which was always to help everyone at McGill,” said Jenny Lu, the Plate Service events co-ordinator. “For us, becoming a service doesn’t change our purpose or what we want to do—it just gives us better resources to do it.”
Lu explained that SSMU approached the Plate Club last spring with an interest in converting the organization into an official service.
“[During the elections], a lot of [candidates] mentioned the Plate Club and a lot of them wanted to expand the Plate Club and do all sorts of stuff to be more sustainable,” she said. “But they never actually talked to us, none of us knew about it.”
In order to expand the Plate Club into a service, SSMU Vice-President Clubs and Services, Anushay Khan, worked with the organization to formally establish it as both a part of SSMU and a fully accounatble entity.
“The difference between a club and a service essentially is that a service is actually a department of SSMU, financially, in terms of our organization and our structure, so becoming a service is not a small change,” she said. “You need to learn a lot about SSMU before being able to function efficiently.”
Despite talk of expansion, however, the Plate Service has maintained that they ultimately want to dissolve as a lunch service and exist solely for events.
“We in the Plate Club feel that ideally the club should not exist for lunch service,” said Christian Scott, the Plate Service’s lunch co-ordinator. “Ideally SSMU and the food vendors, and McGill in general, should find a way, maybe through more sustainability-focused contracts, to totally eliminate plastic, paper, and Styrofoam containers.”
Khan echoed this sentiment and said that this is also what SSMU has in mind for the service.
“Our vision for the Plate Service on the whole is to not even have a Plate Service,” she said. “But to make it so intuitive for everyone to pick up a plate and use it instead of using Styrofoam or plastic because we’re trying to get rid of [those types of plates] as a whole.”
Plate Service members seem to agree that the best way to reach these goals is to include an obligation to use sustainable plates in the future negotiation of leases with vendors.
“We really want to get involved with SSMU this year,” Lu said. “Especially because the contracts with the vendors are expiring this year, so we really want to get them to negotiate a no-Styrofoam [agreement].”
Khan said there will be increased consideration of sustainability in the upcoming negotiations with tenants of the Shatner Building.
Along with other green services around campus, such as Midnight Kitchen and Organic Campus, the Plate Service hopes to make sustainable living an intuitive choice for all students at McGill.
“The whole thing about sustainability is a trend, but at the same time it should become a way of life, versus a fad,” Khan said. “I think [we need] this lifestyle change, which is important. If we don’t act, no one will.”