Dining services unveils new compostable to-go boxes

| News Editor
Student Life Newspaper | Student Life

In a continued effort to make campus dining more sustainable, Dining Services and Bon Appetit released a pair of new to-go box options at the start of spring semester—a compostable, disposable box and a redesigned reusable box.

The compostable to-go box can be found at dining locations across campus, and the reusable option is available in the Danforth University Center, Bear’s Den, Stanley’s Cafe and Holmes Lounge as part of Dining Services’ new “Eco To-Go” initiative.

David Murphy, general manager of Dining Services, said he hopes that eventually the reusable system will completely replace disposable boxes, of which the University used 1.1 million last year.

“The whole purpose behind this was to try to eliminate paper,” he said. “I believe pretty strongly…there is absolutely no reason why we can’t eliminate paper boxes, compostable or not, on campus if we can evolve this program properly.”

Students can request reusable “Eco To-Go” boxes at eateries across campus with a one-time purchase of five meal points, and each use of the “Eco To-Go” box reduces the cost of the meal by 10 cents.

The boxes can then be returned to the cashiers at Bear’s Den, Paws & Go, Cherry Tree Cafe, the Village or the Comfort Food or Vegetarian stations at the DUC. In return, the student receives an “Eco To-Go” keychain, which then serves as collateral for the next use of the “Eco To-Go” box.

The previous model of reusable box, Murphy said, was both physically cumbersome and incompatible with health codes, as students were expected to wash the containers themselves.

There are currently 1,200 “Eco To-Go” boxes available on campus, and another 1,200 will be available as early as next week. More than 700 students have already begun participating in the program.

The initiative to revamp the to-go boxes began this past summer when Dining Services formed a partnership with the Office of Sustainability and Net Impact, a student group, which purchased 200 of the new reusable boxes to distribute to students for free.

In a garbage audit Net Impact conducted on the South 40 last semester, the group found that a large portion of the “Landfill” garbage was material that could have been composted or recycled.

Last week, Net Impact members tabled in the DUC, the Village and Bear’s Den to promote the program and explain the new system to students.

“We’ve heard very positive feedback about how it’s convenient to drop the box off at the different locations and that students don’t have to clean them,” sophomore and Net Impact officer Jessica Rudnick said. “It’s a nice way to save a little bit of money, and if you’re conscious about reducing disposables and sustainability on campus, it’s a great option, especially compared to the old salad boxes.”

Paul Schimmele, Dining Services assistant to the director of operations, said he hopes composting efforts on campus will continue to expand.

“The University is not set up currently in a way that we can expand composting in every building on campus, but that may be something down the road,” Schimmele said.

Despite some confusion about how the reusable box system works, many students have taken part in the program or plan to in the future.

Junior Claire Edelman waited a week to purchase her reusable “Eco To-Go” box.

“[I didn’t purchase the box] the first time I heard about it because I was a little skeptical,” she said. “It’s a good idea in theory.”

Since she bought the box, Edelman said she has forgotten to use the key-chain for other to-go meals.

“I’ve only done the first purchase, and I haven’t brought it back,” she said.

Alyssa Stein, a senior who lives off campus, said she is unlikely to use the reusable box because she usually brings food from home.

“I’d forget about it, and at this point, I don’t eat on campus that much, just if I’m staying late,” she said. “So for me, not so much, but it sounds like it could be a good idea.”

Other changes to Dining Services since winter break include Bloom Coffee’s move from Ursa’s to Whispers Cafe and the return of Ursa’s hot chocolate bar.

Schimmele hopes that Bloom’s new location and time, 5-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, will give students a better opportunity to slow down to enjoy tea, coffee or food while they study in the cafe.

“Really what we’d like to see are students taking a few minutes to sit down and just enjoy their food, maybe some conversation. It’s actually a healthy thing to do,” he said. “Knowing the realities of things on campus, it’s looking for ways of trying to improve life in general.”