Choose to Reuse Food Container Program to Reduce Waste

08-31-2017

With the start of the 2017-2018 academic year, Virginia Wesleyan introduced a new “Choose to Reuse” container exchange program in the Boyd Dining Center. The goal of the program, the latest in a number of sustainability initiatives to coincide with the opening of the new Greer Environmental Sciences Center, is to eliminate polystyrene foam containers from the campus environment. These containers have typically been used for to-go items in the dining hall. Students, faculty and staff can now purchase a green “Choose to Reuse” container from the Dining Hall for a one-time fee of $5. Containers can be used and returned to the Dining Hall in exchange for a clean container with each visit. Diners can either carry out or dine in, but not both on a single visit. There is also a carabiner option so that customers can return their used container for a carabiner (small keychain-like clip) that can be redeemed for a clean container with their next meal. This way customers do not have to carry a dirty container around with them. VWU Dining Services, under the direction of Tim Lockett, developed the program after working closely with faculty, staff and students on the President's Environmental Issues Council (PEIC). The PEIC estimates that the program could eliminate as many as 40,000 polystyrene foam containers annually. “The environmental benefit is not only from reducing the amount of waste we send to the landfill, but also reducing the negative impacts from the manufacture and transport of the new polystyrene containers,” says Elizabeth Malcolm, Professor of Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences and Chair of the PEIC. “We hope that the opening of the Greer Center will inspire further sustainability initiatives across campus and we welcome students, staff and faculty to send us ideas and partner on additional projects."