Following the success of last year’s Eco To-Go program at Summerfields, the eco-friendly reusable containers will now be available for use at the Usdan Marketplace during lunch. Starting on Wednesday, Oct. 21, the containers will be sold at the Usdan Café and accepted during lunch hours. The initiative began last year as a collaborative effort between the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Dining Committee, Bon Appétit, and the University Sustainability Interns in order to decrease waste on campus. 


On Wednesday, 300 containers will be on sale for five dollars or points during non-peak hours; more will be ordered to accommodate any increased demand. Last April, all 150 to-go containers ordered by the University for the start-up program at Summerfields sold out within the first week. 


“We’re hoping to expand it as much as we can,” said Anne Rosenthal ’10, the Environmental Organizers Network (EON) representative to the Dining Committee. “We’re glad it worked so well at Summerfields. That was kind of our pilot project.”


Students who purchased containers from Summerfields last year will also be able to use them at Usdan starting Wednesday. The program will follow the Summerfields template. Students will purchase a keychain that can later be exchanged for a container made of recycled plastic. When students are finished, they can bring dirty containers back to the Marketplace during lunch hours in exchange for a clean one or a keychain. 


The expansion of the program is intended to further decrease the volume of non-recyclable, non-compostable waste on campus. Rosenthal hopes that the program will inspire students to consider their impact as consumers.


“This [program] is really to get students thinking twice about everyday habits that have externalities they may not necessarily think about,” she said. “We want students to be thinking whenever they get something disposable about the implications of that purchase.” 


While the Eco To-Go containers are a one-time purchase of five dollars, disposable to-go containers at the Marketplace cost 50 cents. Ben Firke ’12, Chair of the Dining Committee, pointed out that after ten uses, the reusable container pays for itself.


“It’s a really economical decision to buy into the program,” Rosenthal added. “This is really an example of how sustainability doesn’t have to be inconvenient. It’s such a simple process.”


Resident District Manager of Bon Appétit Michael Strumpf added that limiting the use of paper and plastic products could eventually have a positive effect on the University dining budget.


Though the containers can be used for both lunch and dinner at Summerfields, the option is only available for lunch at the Marketplace. According to Strumpf, the program is in a test phase and there are currently no plans to expand it to dinner hours.


“I can’t comment on the options for dinner [at the Marketplace],” Firke added. “We will evaluate ways to extend the program depending on how it goes.”


The original Eco To-Go program was developed by a student at Eckerd College in Florida, where food services are also under Bon Appétit management. Due to the program’s success at Eckerd, Wesleyan has maintained much of the original model.


According to Rosenthal, the program’s success at the University has inspired other schools to contact Wesleyan’s Bon Appétit for advice on implementing the program. 


The Dining Committee will begin advertising the expansion of the program starting next week with flyers, tabling at Usdan, and blog posts. Rosenthal believes that the containers themselves will serve as advertisement.


“It’s a visible program,” she said. “People will see other students with them. When I graduate I can even give my container to a freshman. It’s a nice closed-loop system.”

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