On Monday, Nov. 18, Vanderbilt Campus Dining will pilot their new “Choose to Reuse” program that will provide students reusable to-go containers in Kissam. This initiative, catalyzed by VSG Vice President Veer Shah, will eliminate disposable containers and offer students reusable to-go containers instead.
For now, Campus Dining is looking for 300 students (limited to sophomores, juniors and seniors) to participate in the pilot run in Kissam Kitchen. To sign up, students must first fill out a brief survey before the containers become available on Monday. Both VSG and Vanderbilt Campus Dining hope to launch the program campus-wide in the Fall of 2020, with designated stations in every cafeteria to pick up and return the containers.
“This is actually something I worked on in the summer,” Shah said. “My brother goes to Wake Forest, and they actually have this program with reusable to-go boxes all throughout campus, and I was looking at other peer institutions that have that. It encouraged me to write a proposal seeing if we could do that for Vanderbilt, and by our second meeting, Campus Dining said they’d pilot it in Kissam at the end of the semester.”
Shah submitted a thorough proposal to Vanderbilt Campus Dining, detailing what makes this a cost-efficient, waste eliminating initiative for Campus Dining. In his mind, if it’s something that peer institutions have seamlessly adapted, surely there’s a way for Vanderbilt to do the same.
Student groups including VSG and SPEAR have been trying to implement reusable to-go container programs since 2016, but only now has the idea gotten off the ground. At least 13 of the rest of the top 20 U.S. News-ranked universities have similar programs, including Princeton University, Columbia University and Duke University.
“We’ve been working with Dining for a few years and a number of different iterations of this have come up,” VSG environmental affairs committee chair Andrew Harwell said. “One idea was a vending machine that would give you different containers you can return, but all of those didn’t work out for one reason or another… We’ve been able to explore new options, and it seems like we can get a lot of these really cool things done.”
How will it work?
Students participating in the pilot will receive a “Choose to Reuse” carabiner, presented at the serving line. According to Jessica Williams, marketing manager of Vanderbilt Campus Dining, these carabiners will essentially function as a “ticket” for their container.
When pilot participants visit Kissam Kitchen, they simply hand their carabiner to the server to indicate participation in the Choose to Reuse program. Then, the server will utilize these containers much like the disposables; only now, students will simply rinse and return the container after they finish. Once they return the container, they’ll receive a new carabiner as a ticket for their next meal.
“Vanderbilt Campus Dining has a passion for providing excellent food at the highest levels of quality, value, convenience and service,” Director of Marketing and Communications for Vanderbilt Campus Dining Sean Carroll said. “We are proud to help enhance the residential college experience, promote sustainability and foster a culture of health and wellness through our diverse culinary offerings.”