Dish Truck place settings. Photo provided.

The use and disposal of paper and plastic dishware, which is mostly unrecyclable and not accepted by composting facilities in Tompkins County, is a large and persistent cause of resource consumption and garbage production. Dish Truck, a local organization founded in 2014 to address this problem with an alternative, provides and washes durable dishes, cups, and utensils at events throughout the area. In September 2016, Dish Truck received a Neighborhood Mini-Grant to purchase more dishware and thus serve larger events.

In 2017, Dish Truck served 15 events, from small private parties to the Greater Ithaca Activity Center’s Harvest Dinner and the GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance. This prevented thousands of disposable dishes and utensils from being used and discarded instead. Greenhouse gas emissions from its operations will be offset with donations to the Finger Lakes Climate Fund, a program of Sustainable Tompkins, to support building renovations and construction that will help local households and businesses use less fossil fuel.

With many events already booked for 2018, Dish Truck will continue to grow in reach and impact, aided by community partnerships and fiscal sponsorship from Sustainable Tompkins. In 2017, three student volunteers in the Engaged Cornell program at Cornell University gathered information to help systematize their operations. A recent contract with Tompkins County Recycling and Materials Management provides fund to pay the coordinator a stipend, print educational and promotional materials, and purchase yet more dishware.

To volunteer with Dish Truck or hire its services, contact Joey Gates at or (607) 644-5525.

The Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program provides seed money to diverse initiatives building environmental, economic, and social resilience and well-being in Tompkins County. In turn, we need your support! Please donate today and help us support more citizen-driven projects to improve life in our community. Special thanks to our sponsors: Park Foundation, Beck Equipment, Finger Lakes Wealth Management, Natural Investments, and Craig Riecke!