The idea of a free reusable dish service originated in 2004 at Sustainable Concordia. Seeking an alternative to the disposable wine glasses and paper plates consistently seen at campus events, a small group of students started collecting dishes, slowly expanding whenever funding opportunities permitted. Today, that collection is The Dish Project’s inventory!
- Sustainable Concordia is born
- R4 is born as a Sustainable Concordia working group
- R4 starts The Dish Project
- First round of SAF funding
- Moved into Z-annex
- Space is outfitted with cupboards and dishwasher
Conception and Research
The Dish Project was created in 2003 by R4, a working group under Sustainable Concordia. R4 (for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rethink) focused on looking beyond recycling to reduce the university’s waste impact. It was home to multiple waste-related projects throughout its existence, including the Notebook Project.
Concordia University conducted its first campus sustainability assessment in 2003, and its first waste audit in 2006 in collaboration with R4, where The Dish Project was recognized for reducing waste on campus and helping students host sustainable events on a budget.
- First honorarium is awarded for the position of Project Coordinator
- Second round of SAF funding
- Project Coordinator becomes first funded part-time position
- Mission is developed
- Vision is developed
- Website and Facebook page launch
- Loyola location added
Growth and Development
From the start, The Dish Project offered its services for free to the wider community. The first important booking was made by a community group organizing to feed the homeless. Three thousand disposable plates were saved from landfill as a result of this early collaboration.
Over the years, different forms of “payment” were tested to ensure users brought back the items that they borrowed while keeping the service financially accessible. A deposit system proved to be most effective, and a version of this system has been in place ever since. Before the students behind The Dish Project knew it, people were borrowing their dishes for conferences, weddings, and all manner of events.
With its increasing popularity, the Dish Project applied to the Sustainability Action Fund for funding to purchase an industrial dishwasher, secure a space, and pay a coordinator to run the service. These essential elements helped nurture the Dish Project’s growth, giving it a strong foundation to continue evolving and expanding. By keeping the three pillars of sustainability at the forefront of the Dish Project’s work, the service has been able to serve countless Concordia and non-Concordia community members in an accessible way that continues to reduce waste in Montreal.
- Waste justice definition
- Guide to Reducing Ocean Plastic release
- Outreach & Engagement Coordinator becomes second funded past-time position
- Consistent funding is secured through the CSU
- First Zero Waste Week hosted at Concordia
- Partnership with Distribution begins
- Moved into new space in Hall
- New website launch
Over the years, R4’s many projects moved on from the group, leaving The Dish Project as its last active faction. Sustainable Concordia remained the home of The Dish Project, providing it with financial and social forms of assistance.
In the summer of 2015, The Dish Project began to seriously consider its options for independence. This transition was triggered by Sustainable Concordia’s decision to change from a project-based programming towards a campaign-based one. After much discussion and deliberation, it was agreed upon that The Dish Project would make becoming a nonprofit its long-term goal for the future. Many factors concerning the future of the project were taken into consideration, including organizational structure, financial viability, space, level of difficulty of the process, community buy-in, and the possibility for expansion of capacities, locations, and mission.
In the meantime, The Dish Project remains closely linked to Sustainable Concordia. Presently funded by the CSU, it is increasingly taking steps to eventually operate autonomously as a nonprofit organization. By pursuing alternative sources of funding, building its workforce, and branching out to other projects and activities centered around waste justice, The Dish Project is building a broader future for itself in the much-needed market for accessible zero-waste resources.