Takeout meals are becoming increasingly popular and more common in college campuses where students rush from one class to the next with just minutes to eat in between. Even when their long days are over, many students find themselves eating in their dorms or on their campus quads.
At Dartmouth College, Madison Sabol, a rising senior, took a closer look at this trend. What she saw was a market ripe for sustainability and innovation that ultimately led to the Green2Go takeout program on campus.
Sabol started her work towards developing the Green2Go initiative two years ago. As an underclassman, she noticed the alarming amount of food that was being wasted on her campus.
Wanting to make a change, she began working with Dartmouth’s Office of Sustainability and Dining Services with an eye toward creating what was described in a report recently issued by the college as a “more environmentally friendly package for take-out food.”
She began by conducting research regarding the reasons behind the campus’ food wasting habits through surveys conducted both in person and online. Aiding Sabol in her research were members of the college’s Environmental Conservation Organization.
According to the report, Sabol learned that each mealtime on the Dartmouth campus saw between 400-600 food containers generated. Her research yielded another statistic, though, indicating that many students stood with Sabol in her desire to reduce their school’s plastic waste.
Sabol also learned that many colleges across the nations had taken to using an “ECO-Takeout” box throughout their dining halls. Harvard, Columbia, and Oberlin were just a few of the universities and colleges that had added these sturdy, reusable, and washable plastic products that were helping reduce their waste.
Each box has three small compartments and lid that fit snugly, making them practical and convenient.
According to the report, Sabol began her work by recruiting 12 students to take part in the program’s pilot project, which turned out to be a success.
Sabol’s sales pitch to fellow students as to why they should purchase a Green2Go box consisted of her telling them that all they had to do in order to obtain a reusable Green2Go container was to pay $4. She also emphasized that these containers made sense because, whenever someone was done with theirs, they could easily return it to any campus dining location.
By her side through this part of the program was her classmate Alexandra Sclafani.
Today, these boxes are available for purchase at several campus dining halls and cafes.
Used Green2Go boxes can easily be exchanged for clean ones or for tokens that could be turned in for clean boxes.
The program is expected to save the college’s Dining Services up to $20,000 in the coming year.
Given all this, it comes as no surprise that Dartmouth’s Office of Sustainability is quite pleased with the program’s success. Rosalie Kerr, the department’s director, has high hopes for Green2Go.
Sabol is appreciative of the support she received, describing Kerr and office assistant director Jenna Musco as her “biggest cheerleaders” throughout the process. This is hardly surprising, as Sabol’s work with Green2Go seems to go hand in hand with the Office of Sustainability’s mission.
“Part of what we do is inspire and powering students to tackle real world sustainability issues, sometimes leveraging the lesson they’ve learned in the classroom,” said Kerr.
Kerr described Sabol as a “great student of the system.”
“She was able to understand how the system was working and come up with a program that was a good fit,” she said.
“When she launched the Green2Go large scale pilot this summer, it was very well received.”
What’s next for Green2Go?
Kerr believes the time is ripe to look further at the data of the program and figure out what is working and what is not.
Following the pilot’s success, she would like to see a “clear ride analysis” of everything so far in order to identify opportunities for improvement and expansion, she said.
Kerr indicated that an expansion for the program is likely for either this coming fall or winter.
“We expect to see good results,” she said. “Madison did her homework.”
Samuel O’Brient grew up in western Massachusetts, though most of his days are spent at Sarah Lawrence College in Westchester, New York. His time there is spent studying business communications and serving as editor in chief of the SLC Economic Review. As a writer, journalist, and blogger, he has written for many different online venues on a variety of topics. When he’s not working on his blog, Samuel can often be found sailing, on the golf course, or on the tennis court.