Green grub: Cafe offers reusable take out boxes to reduce waste

Courtesy of GET Enterprises, LLC

The Trailhead Café now offers reusable boxes for students who want to eat out. The boxes are made of recyclable materials, and are a part of the café's Eco To-Go program.

SUNY-ESF’s Trailhead Café is taking a step toward sustainability.

The cafe has begun a new Eco To-Go program that allows students to purchase reusable to-go boxes made of recyclable materials in order to reduce waste on campus.

The program started right after winter break, said James Zappola, the dining services manager at the Trailhead Café, adding that they had been working on the program for months prior to that.

The Trailhead Café is located in the Gateway Center on the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s campus, and takes its own form of dining dollars, called “Trailhead Dining Dollars.”

State University of New York at Morrisville recently hired several employees to work for ESF’s dining services, he said. However, he added that this collaboration involved certain stipulations.

“We needed to try to be as sustainable as possible, so we knew we had to create a new program,” Zappola said.

The Trailhead Café’s dining services did their research, asked around at other universities and came across the Eco To-Go program, he said, and “the price was right.”

The cafe buys containers with three compartments from the Eco To-Go website, he said. The cafe purchased 48 containers so far and about half of them are currently in use.

Zappola said they ask students to empty their containers before returning them and then the cafe washes and sanitizes them. He added that the containers are dishwasher safe and there is no time limit to return them.

“The only time we charge extra for the containers is if they are lost or broken,” he said.

The Trailhead Café is trying to advertise the new system by posting on Facebook, sending out campus emails, putting signs on napkin holders and in front of the cafe, he said.

“There have been a lot of advertisements and emails to the student body,” said Ross Mazur, a junior environmental resources engineering major and treasurer of the Green Campus Initiative.

GCI is not directly involved in the project and the Trailhead Café originally took on the initiative, he said. However, he added, GCI is heading the zero-waste campaign, so they strongly support the Eco To-Go Program.

It only costs about $2–3 to make the containers and the Café is selling them for $5 each, he said.

Mazur said that the Trailhead Café dining services often meet with GCI members so that the campus community is represented in their decision-making.

Brendan McCormack, a sophomore in environmental science who frequents the Trailhead Café for lunch, said the new system is a good idea, but he doesn’t often get his food to-go.

“I would waste the same amount (of food) if I was sitting down to eat,” he said. “But if I did get food to go, I would definitely use the containers.”

McCormack said he doesn’t know too much about the program and hasn’t seen too many advertisements for it.

McCormack added that he saw an advertisement for the system for the first time right before Spring Break, but besides that, he has not seen or heard anything about it.

“I know that its goal is to promote reusing containers so that there isn’t nearly as much waste, but I’m unsure about the other aspects,” he said.

He suggested that the cashiers tell customers about the program as they get food to-go so that they are reminded about the program.

Even though he doesn’t use the program, McCormack admits that it’s a very good idea.

“It really solidifies what we do here at ESF,” he said.


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