Reusable metal or plastic utensils can be a cheaper alternative to disposable ones, in theory. But Krishna House learned that it wasn’t the case when it introduced metal dishes and utensils to Krishna Lunch.
It now serves its vegan meals only on paper plates.
Responding to rising food prices, the nonprofit organization calculated that metal plates would be cheaper than paper plates, all else being equal, said Caitanya Long, a Hare Krishna devotee.
All else was not equal, however.
“The amount of money we had to pay people to clean the thousand plates was way over budget,” said Long, who has been serving Krishna Lunch on the Plaza of the Americas for four years.
The 30 devotees who live in Krishna House at 214 NW 14th St. prepare, serve and clean up after Krishna Lunch in exchange for living in the house, Long said.
This year, about 75 percent of the live-in devotees are students busy with studying, which cuts down on the house’s dishwashing manpower.
To get the metal plates clean in time for the next day’s lunch service, Krishna House had to pay five non-members to wash them.
Krishna House had also negotiated a discount on trash collection fees with UF administration, but it was significantly less than expected, Long said.
“It wasn’t a personal thing,” she said of UF’s offer. “UF loves us. The present administration is very favorable and have gone out of their way to make a really nice space for us here in the Plaza.”
Long said they thought using metal plates would be cheaper in the long run, but some ended up in the trash rather than the dishwasher.
People who didn’t finish their meals before the lunch ended at 1:30 p.m. would throw the plates in the trash or walk away with them, Long said.
Replacing lost dishes, cups and cutlery might cost more than they’re worth, Marie Urmano, 19, said.
“It seems like sustainability and the economy are always at odds,” the UF digital arts and sciences freshman said.
Not so, said Leslie Paul Thiele, director of sustainability studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“Sustainability is said to be built on a three-legged stool,” he said. “One is environmental health, one is social welfare and one is economic viability. For something to be sustainable, it has to be economically viable.”
A version of this story ran on page 5 on 9/17/2013 under the headline "Krishna Lunch switches back to paper plates to save money"
International studies freshman Kelly Collin, 18, and environmental science freshman Avalon Hoek Spaans, 18, eat Krishna Lunch on paper plates Wednesday. Krishna switched from reusable plates to paper ones.