Tufts Dining reintroduces reusable takeout container program, pauses Dining2GO

Reusable takeout packages in Dewick Dining Hall are pictured on Nov. 8, 2021. Mina Terzioglu / The Tufts Daily

Tufts Dining reimplemented its reusable takeout container program on Nov. 1 that had first been launched in 2019 in the Carmichael and Dewick-MacPhie dining centers , and stopped Dining2GO due to low participation. Both programs serve as ways for students to eat outside of the dining halls while also reducing food waste, Patti Klos, director of Dining and Business Services, said. 

“The Reusable Take-Out container program enables a student to self-select items that are placed in the green boxes,” Klos wrote in an email to the Daily. “Most things available in the servery (except for soup and very liquid items) can easily be placed in these to-go containers.”

Tufts Dining, along with the Office of Sustainability and EcoReps, promoted the reusable containers as a dining option prior to COVID-19. Dining2GO was put in place during the pandemic to accommodate COVID-19 regulations, as students were prohibited from dining indoors for a large part of the year. 

“The Reusable Take-out Container program was introduced in the fall of 2019 with good success,” Klos said. “We were not able to offer this service last year, but now that our COVID-19 response allows us to reintroduce more typical types of service, including not having to maintain social distances, it made sense to reintroduce them at this time.”

First-year Connie Yu said she has not yet used the takeout containers, but has seen her friends utilize them when they want to grab a quick meal.

The decision to restart this program was made by Tufts Dining. EcoReps assisted with the reimplementation of the takeout containers into the dining halls, Klos said. 

“The Office of Sustainability and EcoReps have been great collaborators with us, and we knew we could extend the reach of our messaging by collaborating with them on the relaunch of this program,” Klos said. “The EcoReps in particular were very willing to help explain how the program works, and why it is important, during our relaunch.”

Junior Sabrina Zhang, an EcoRep, believes that integration of the program into Tufts Dining is a success. 

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing if it were to be fully integrated into the Tufts Dining system,” Zhang said. “So that becomes more regular of a thing, because then I think it can become much more permanent in a sense… it’s not something that’s just like a little project that might go away at some point.” 

While the reimplementation of reusable containers creates less food and plastic waste, the reintroduction of Dining2GO brought back more single-use plastic to campus dining halls. Nonetheless, Director of the Office of Sustainability Tina Woolston said that introducing these initiatives in tandem will actually have a potential to more positively impact the environment. 

“So I think it’s really great that they’re offering [Dining2GO] you know, the problem with sort of forcing [the reusable containers] is that it becomes more wasteful because if students aren’t committed enough to the program to bring them back, then they’ll throw it out,” Woolston said. “A durable item that’s thrown out has a higher environmental impact because more material is used in the creation of it.”

With reusable containers now being the only option for takeout, there is no guarantee that they will return them. To try to prevent this, Tufts Dining is enforcing a $5 fine for lost or unreturned carabiners and containers, Klos said.

Woolston said that this will ultimately raise dining costs for students.

“This is like a classic tragedy of the Commons,” Woolston said. “The cost to produce the waste is an individual cost, but the cost to dispose of the waste is a shared cost … so the risk that Dining runs right now is that of people [not returning containers] becomes a big expense. Every expense that they have gets passed on to students.”

While Yu usually eats in Dewick with friends, she believes there are many benefits for time and flexibility with the takeout system. 

“I would definitely try out the green to-go containers because I think it’s easier to carry … and to store,” Yu said. “Also you get to return it and it doesn’t have to be super soon.”


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