Schirin Rangnick

When Yalies attend birthday parties or club meetings in the future, they might notice a new alternative to the standard disposable plastic silverware: reusable dishware from the Berkeley dining hall.

The reason behind the change is Berkeley College’s new initiative, Shareware, which aims to minimize single-use material waste by providing reusable dishware for student events that serve food or drinks. The program originated as a pitch by Victoria Lim ’21, Candice Wang ’21 and Megan Ahern ’21 for the first annual “Chun Challenge for Change” in an effort to encourage waste reduction on campus. The three students are members of the campus organization GREEN — Get Responsible for Earth’s Environment Now — which pushes for increased sustainability among students.

The idea for Shareware was inspired by a similar program at Washington University in St. Louis called GreenWare, which allows students to rent reusable dishware for free. After winning the Chun Challenge, the students used their $500 prize to kick-start the initiative. They began working with Berkeley College to implement it on campus at the end of the last spring semester. During the week before Thanksgiving break — the first week of the program — six individuals rented out materials.

“We’ve been really happy with how many people have used [Shareware] and with the support that [the Yale College Council] has given us,” Wang said. “A lot of the heads of colleges have responded well to this and have been advertising for us.”

With this free service — which is available to students in all residential colleges — students can reserve plates, cups, cake knives and utensils. They can then pick them up from the Berkeley College Office and must return them to the Berkeley dining hall within 24 hours, where the dishes are cleaned.

Dishware can be used by groups of any size. Events using the service range from individual celebrations to events put on by student organizations, according to Wang.

Wang and Ahern have been working closely with Head of Berkeley College David Evans and Berkeley College Operations Manager Sarah Layedra to implement the program, which began offering services on Nov. 18. They believed Berkeley’s central location on campus made it a perfect hub to pilot the program.

“Since Shareware’s launch a couple of weeks ago, we have already used it for our Senior Mellon Forum and [to provide] homemade food to our students in-residence during the Thanksgiving break,” Evans wrote in an email to the News.

Evans, a professor of geology and geophysics, added that he hopes students will see the value of “making this type of small effort to become more acclimated to a culture of sustainability.”

“Like any new activity, the more it’s practiced, the more natural it will become,” Evans said.

He added that minimizing humanity’s environmental footprint is the most effective way to reduce the risk of substantial societal costs in the future.

Shareware’s launch comes at a time when rates of stolen dining hall dishware and utensils are on the rise. In late September, the News reported that Pierson College’s dining hall had lost over 80 percent of its mugs since the beginning of the semester.

Wang said she believes Shareware will show people that it is easy to get reusable items and that taking them from dining halls is unnecessary.

Grace Aaronson ’21, the communications chair of GREEN, called the program a “huge victory for GREEN, Berkeley and sustainability at Yale in general.”

“Even though it just launched, Shareware has already met with a lot of success, and we hope to keep expanding it in the future,” she said.

To rent Shareware, students can find a Google Form on the Berkeley College website.

Marisol Carty | marisol.carty@yale.edu