Reusable container program finds early success

By Arielle King, Publisher

One semester into the school’s reusable container program, the campaign’s red, yellow, and green plastic fobs are a ubiquitous sight on campus.

Students can trade the fobs for reusable, green containers at the Cafe, reducing waste. In the past, the Cafe has spent $20,000 on single-use paper or plastic items annually.
The program is a natural fit for a top-ranked environmental law school that already boasts composting toilets.

Administration and staff had expressed interest in the program for years with little progress or student buy-in. Last year, the Campus Greening Committee (CGC) got involved.

Led by third-year J.D. student Gordon Merrick, the CGC became a coordinator between the administration, the Cafe, and the student body, to make sure everyone was on the same page.

The CGC worked closely with Vice President of Finance Lorraine Atwood and Food Services Manager Martina Rutkovsky in developing the reusable container program.

Last spring, the Student Bar Association adopted a CGC-backed resolution in support of a small fee covering the program’s startup costs and continued maintenance.

According to a recent CGC poll, over 80 percent of respondents reported using their plastic containers almost daily.

Donna Brown, whose friendly face greets many at the Cafe, encourages students who have not yet participated in the program to “take two minutes, come in, and get their fobs.”

The program does add another task for the Cafe staff to do throughout the day. Exchanges can only happen when the Cafe is open, which some believe limits its efficiency and practicality.

It is also unclear whether the reusable container program has resulted in a net reduction in waste, given the increase in plastic containers storing “grab and go” items. Many campus-wide events still use disposable products as well.

Nevertheless, this is certainly a step in the right direction. The CGC is working with the administration on next steps.

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