In Bostwick Marketplace alone, students waste 51,000 plastic food take-out containers a semester. This crazy figure may be hard to accept, but there is an easy solution: reusable containers that are convenient, aesthetically pleasing, machine-washable, and free of charge to customers. Embedding sustainable practices into our daily endeavors can help manage our waste and the costs that accompany it.
Reusable “to go” containers are a simple fix to implement on campus. Even if we only have them in one dining facility, we could cause drastic changes through potential environmental, economic, and social benefits. This program could reduce our landfilling, save money, and change bad habits.
I call this initiative “To Go Green.” The initiative is a waste-reduction experiment where students will be given reusable take-out containers instead of disposable clamshell containers. The cashier would record the transaction, possibly through a deposit when a BUID is swiped or barcode scanners. The deposit would later be given back to the customer when the container is returned for cleaning. Otherwise, every aspect of the current experience would remain constant. The washing, drying, and redistributing of the containers would be provided by Parkhurst Dining Services. Instead of throwing away a container after consumption, you would just return it; it’s as easy as that.
“To Go Green” will have four significant outcomes: 1) Regularly limit waste and waste patterns. 2) Save money used to purchase disposable containers. 3) Increase conversations about sustainability. 4) Put the University on the map as an educational environment that, according to the Second Nature approach, “Elevates sustainability as a guiding and unifying principle” so it can show others what “we do” as an educational environment.
I recently interviewed 41 Bostwick consumers, and 100 percent of them said they would absolutely participate.
“If they had these containers, I would use them,” a first-year student said.
“It really isn’t a hassle to reuse containers,” a senior student said.
If we concentrate on decreasing how much is wasted in the Bostwick Marketplace, we can mitigate our negative impact on the environment and reduce overall financial costs while changing personal habits and improving the University’s image. Starting with just 200 reusable containers, nearly 6,000 containers can be saved a semester and hopefully decrease our annual solid waste, which is about 1,476 tons.
Currently, when take-out is swiped customers receive two clamshell containers, one big and one small. Each set of clamshells costs $0.31. At a small cost of $3.00, “To Go Green” containers pay for themselves after just 10 uses of using both disposable clamshells, or 20 uses if only one is used. Regardless, the initial investment of $600.00 for the first 200 experimental containers could save $1,860 that would be spent on disposable clamshells. This small step could save as much $15,810.00 over the semester.
This initiative will improve both Parkhurst Dining Services and the University’s image. Given that we have the Bucknell Center for Sustainability, Environmental Club, a Managing for Sustainability major, and strategic themes and campaign initiatives based around sustainability, it would be wise for the University to engage in an activity that is not only sustainable, but also convenient, tangible, and lucrative.