Is Dunkin' Donuts undermining UNH sustainability initiatives?

By Julia Miller
On September 23, 2011

When I first heard that UNH was allowing Dunkin' Donuts to come to Holloway Commons this semester, I was appalled. From a sustainability perspective, it's a complete disaster – how hypocritical of us as a university to brag about the motions we have made to be one of the most sustainable schools in the nation.

Instead of incorporating sustainability, we're incorporating UNH.

In President Huddleston's State of the University address, he presented "16 reasons for confidence that UNH is becoming more dynamic, innovative, and sustainable."

In reason No. 12, he said that UNH "will work with other units on campus to launch initiatives to grow and sustain a vital economy in the Granite State, by supporting community development, entrepreneurship, and emerging growth sectors, such as local foods."

The trouble is, inviting Dunkin' Donuts does not support any of this. Multinational corporations such as Dunkin' Donuts do not add wealth to local economies and do not work toward an even distribution of wealth.

In fact, much of the revenue will end up at their headquarters in Canton, Mass., not in the Granite State, or at UNH. To be fair, the franchise will support a local business-man, the franchisee Jose Salema, who lives locally and owns many of the Dunkin' Donuts franchises in the area. Their food is not baked on site, or with local ingredients, but they are baked centrally in the region and transported to the surrounding franchises.   

Many people are left wondering though, what was wrong with Panache? Panache was the café that formerly occupied the lobby of Holloway Commons.

According to David May, UNH assistant vice president for business affairs and Jon Plodzik, director of Dining Services for UNH, students were not utilizing Panache as much as they could have.

Sales had declined over 50 percent since the second or third year, they said. Panache was slowly going out of business while surveys indicated that students would make use of Dunkin' Donuts if it had a space on campus.  Dunkin' Donuts wanted that space, UNH predicted it would be financially beneficial and take stress off Dining, so now it's moving in and it's here to stay.

Instead of complaining about it amongst yourselves, or straight-up boycotting the use of Styrofoam cups or coffee that has not been approved as Fair Trade, students who want to have a voice should speak up. Dunkin' Donuts has a Facebook page, where students can comment and give suggestions.

UNH already has a hand in on this.

"We have already taken a proactive stance on paper cups, expressing our concern for being sustainable," May said. "I believe we've had some good conversations with them. They as a company are looking at that."  

The issue involving Styrofoam is that it can withstand the temperature Dunkin' Donuts wants its coffee to be. UNH has informed Salema that the university is trying to do as much regarding sustainability as it can, Plodzik said.  

Plodzik and May are proposing that recycling will reduce their costs and environmental impact.  The problem is that it costs more for sustainable products.

"My gut is telling me that right now the way the economy is, business owners across all lines of business are cautious about adding cost to the model," May said. "They have to weigh the risk of being more sustainable versus potentially losing revenue."  

Would UNH students be willing to pay more to have a more sustainable program? Maybe the university should survey that.

I suggest that we just force the corporation to adhere to our sustainability standards, considering it is our campus, but May said the company wouldn't be moving in if that was the case.

"We wouldn't have a Dunkin' Donuts if we forced them to adhere to our sustainability standards," he said.

It is going to take time to bring change to a huge corporation.

"We can take baby steps, like getting them to use a compostable straw," May said. "Over time, we will challenge Dunkin' Donuts to become more sustainable."

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