Author: Daphne Auza
Campus Dining has decided to expand its Eco-Takeout program to all residential students after a two and a half year pilot phase. The college will start automatically enroll students for the reusable take-out container system at the end of spring semester, charging a one-time fee of five dollars to their meal plan, FLEX or Tiger Plus account, while simultaneously beginning to charge 50 cents for plastic to-go containers. Eco Clamshells will remain available to faculty and students living off-campus, but they will have to take the initiative to enroll in the program themselves.
Anyone who wants to use the Eco Clamshells will first have to obtain a token that they can exchange for their first container. Campus Dining will set up tables in the Marketplace during the week of Feb. 18 where students can pick up their tokens during lunchtime. Students can make the choice to opt out of the program and have the five dollars refunded to their account by completing a form available on the Campus Dining and Card Office websites.
The Eco Clamshell system will function similarly to its pilot phase. Students hand in tokens to Marketplace cashiers in order to receive an Eco Clamshell. After using the container, the student rinses it and returns it to the cashier in order to get another token, which they may exchange for another container.
Campus Dining will be eliminating the 25 cent meal discount that comes with using the Eco Clamshells at the end of spring semester. Instead they will charge 50 cents for every plastic container, a measure that Vice President of Hospitality Services Amy Munoz says should give students incentive to get involved in the Eco-Takeout program.
Munoz decided to approve the program’s expansion for this semester after attending the student-organized Sustainability Forum, where attendees expressed their interest in the school-wide use of Eco Clamshells. Munoz explained that aside from student feedback, the pilot phase also proved that expansion would be feasible for the school.
“It’s not overwhelmingly difficult for the staff, for the Card Office, for anybody who manages it,” Munoz said. “Logistically we’ve learned we can go forward, and we are always pushing the envelope in terms of sustainability.”
Urban and Environmental Policy major Emma Sorrell (senior), intern for the department’s sustainability research and implementation, believes that the pilot phase helped familiarize students with the program.
“It’s been around long enough that people are used to it, I think, and might be more accepting of making this switch,” Sorrell said.
Sorrell approached Campus Dining in the spring of 2010 about the Eco-Takeout program as a part of her action research project for an Urban and Enviromental Policy course. According to Sorrell, Occidental College used over 100,000 plastic disposable containers per year prior to the start of the Eco-Takeout program. She collaborated with Campus Dining on the pilot program’s development throughout the spring of 2010 and helped launch it that same year. Audrey Copeland, the developer of the Eco Clamshells prototype, even came to Occidental to aid the pilot program’s kick-off. Since then, Campus Dining has also started providing a limited amount of compostable plastic containers, but Munoz says that the increased usage of Eco Clamshells will even further reduce the college’s plastic disposal and waste hauling costs.
“It’s involving everybody in a socially conscious measure as opposed to just the people who express an interest,” Munoz said. “I think, for this program, we’re at that point. This is our commitment to get everybody involved.”
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