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Thinking outside of the (single-use) box
iCons students work on designing reusable to-go containers for a greener, more sustainable campus
January 29, 2020
Ten “green idea” projects around campus are underway, made possible with grants from the Sustainability, Innovation and Engagement Fund (SIEF). Launched in 2013, the program aims to foster sustainability by financially supporting students, faculty and staff who propose projects to promote a greener campus.
Beginning with this issue, Inside UMass will take a look at a few of the SIEF projects.
Don’t Dump that To-Go Container: Use It Again (and Again)!
Three students completing the Integrated Concentration in Science program (iCons) are working toward replacing UMass’s current to-go containers at Berkshire Dining Hall with new, reusable containers. Currently, the to-go containers are compostable, but can only be used once. The containers that the students are developing will be able to be used about 100 times.
The senior students – Waverly Lau, Levente Haber and Margaret Dreishpoon – first conceived the idea and started research in the spring of 2018 as a part of their iCons program. After a multitude of presentations and debates in favor of the project, the students applied for and received a SIEF grant of $4,000, which will pay for supplies.
Kathy Wicks, the director of sustainability for Auxiliary Enterprises, joined the students as a staff member to help oversee the project. The team will survey students to get their reactions to proposed reusable containers. In the spring, the team hopes to start market-testing, which will allow 50-100 students to regularly use the containers.
Making the switch to reusable containers will not only save money, but will address the issue of container waste. Haber says they chose this project because “we felt that it could be one of the quickest and most effective ways to improve campus sustainability in the near future for UMass. It is simple enough to be implemented in a short period of time, yet could have huge environmental and economic impacts for the university.”
With the seniors looking toward their own graduation, they plan to spread the word and recruit additional passionate students to carry on this green journey of bringing reusable containers to the dining halls.