Virginia Tech Dining Services has launched a new program to further increase sustainability efforts across campus dining facilities. 

The new Reusable To-Go container program now offers a substitute for foam to-go containers in West End Market.The implementation of this program follows five years of increasing sustainability programs in Virginia Tech's dining centers. 

In 2010, Dining Services began its successful reusable bottle program at Owens Food Court which as kept an estimated 11 pounds of waste out of the landfill per participant. 

In 2011, Dining Services began to offer the short-lived Eco To-Go Pilot Program that provided to-go containers for purchase. The current Reusable To-Go program hopes to increase the number of students who are more aware of the waste they produce when purchasing and transporting food.

“The Eco To-Go program was our first step towards a reusable to-go container program,” said Rial Tombes, the sustainability coordinator for Dining Services. “The program was the step in the right direction, but was not as convenient as the current program. With Reusable To-Go, the meal is served in the to-go container which can be returned to West End's dish washing area to be washed and reused.”

All meal plan holders may participate in the Reusable To-Go Container program. Interested students can visit the kiosk near the dish return area in West End Market to pay a $12 annual membership. The fee covers the cost of the to-go containers and the resources that are supporting the project. 

Once enrolled in the project, students receive a Reusable To-Go key chain with three tags, representing the three reusable to-go containers each member can check out at any one time. Upon returning a container, students will receive a key tag back allowing check out of a new unit.

Containers are available until Reading Day of each semester. This will allow a student ample time to return all checked out units before dining halls close. 

Currently the program is only being offered at West End, but there are plans to expand to other dining halls on campus.

“We hope that all our sustainability programs will develop a local culture invested in sustainability," said Tombes. "Creating a campus that has an interest in sustainable practices is our overall goal."

Last year, Virginia Tech composted close to 500 tons of waste. By helping students and staff develop a plan for proper disposal of waste after eating, the Reusable To-Go program could boost that number to more than 600 tons this year.

Tombes is optimistic students will embrace the change. 

“The challenge in getting this program operational involved the logistics of it," said Tombes. "But, student support and feedback for an alternative to foam motivated us to get this program going.”



Written by Drew Knapp.
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