Eco To-Go at 805 Kitchen has given freshman the opportunity to turn a sit-down meal into a fast, portable and environmentally-friendly alternative.
The program was created eight years ago as a take-out food option for students with busy schedules who do not always have the time to sit and eat in a dining hall. One reusable container is included in every student dining plan and is free for all freshmen living on campus.
“It’s designed to be for first-year students who are on a meal plan, so the cost of the program is built into the base operating cost that freshman students pay with their meal plan,” registered dietitian Kaitlin Gibbons said. Gibbons is also the sustainability coordinator for Campus Dining.
How Eco To-Go works
Students can pick up their first reusable container from a cashier at 805 Kitchen and are given five minutes to fill it with the food. Once finished, students return to the cashier to pay the usual 805 Kitchen fare. Every time they come back, students can exchange their previous container for a new, clean, free one. The containers are then washed in the facility and redistributed.
The program encourages students to reduce their carbon footprint by reducing their use amount of single-use packaging.
“It’s just cutting back on our disposable containers that are ending up in the landfill which we know is a huge issue today, not just on campus but everywhere around the world,” Gibbons said.
Last year, approximately 2,000 to 3,000 students took advantage of Eco To-Go, according to Gibbons. This year, freshmen continue to take advantage of the program. Environmental management and protection freshman Sandy O’Sullivan said reducing her amount of waste is a top priority.
“I’m an environmental management major, so I always try to do stuff like this,” O’Sullivan said. “Like when I got to Red Radish, I try to bring my own bowl.”
Currently, 805 Kitchen is the only dining venue on campus that offers a program like Eco To-Go. Implementing this type of program in other dining venues like The Avenue would create challenges in its daily operation.
“We kind of can’t realistically expect to be able to offer the volume in The Avenue of what those to-go boxes would be, to say that we’d be able to wash them in our facilities and keep up with that demand,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons said there is a push for more sustainable options on-campus for students, something that Campus Dining is looking into continuing with the new Vista Grande dining complex.