I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but at various food places across campus, you have the option of getting your meal in a plastic green container for $5. I first asked for it because I thought it was so cute; kind of like the ceramic mug that looks like a paper coffee cup.
I personally use mine as a personal lunch box. I’m a big fan of making a large pot of stir-fry Sunday night, and bringing a smaller box to school during the week. The eco-trays I found, are the perfect size – they hold more than your average box and weighs less. The only thing I found is that they’re not leak-proof, as the errant soy sauce in my lunch bag so charmingly informed me. I tend to make drier stir-fries now.
Anyway, I was curious about how this started, especially since I saw it at non-Food and Services location, like SF’s Veda and Trin’s Buttery, so I asked Sarah Khan, Marketing and Communications Co-ordinator over at Food and Beverage Services about the program.
The eco-trays started in September, a program to reduce disposable containers by encouraging reusable containers on campus. “It’s similar to the Lug-a-Mug initiative,” says Sarah, “except the container is shared with others. It’s like eating in china plates in a restaurant.”
So what happens is, at the food place you’re at, you purchase a card, like you’re a member at the gym or the library. Then, when you order your food, you ask for the food to be put in the eco-tray. When you go to pay, you pay for the meal, and then you use your card to “pay” for the box. When you’re done eating (today, tomorrow, next year), you bring your eco-tray (you don’t even have to wash it!) back to any of the locations that has the program and you get a card back from them.
This program was started to reduce the amount of waste produced on campus, and was dreamed up by Jaco Lokker, Director of Food and Services, three years ago. It’s part of the larger initiative that includes the green bins in the cafes, the Lug-a-Mug program, back-of-house composting, and recycling. According to Sarah, U of T is reducing waste each year in waste audits!
Now, I wanted to know why students should use this. Being the phenomenally lazy person I am, the idea of bringing a tray back, even unwashed, seems too much work… (and technically, I don’t; I’ve been using it as a lunch box).
“The biggest factor is that the containers will help send less waste to landfills, specifically non-biodegradable waste,” says Sarah, “The containers are BPA free and microwave safe, so you can microwave them without taking in toxins. They are also dishwasher safe so you can reuse it at home as a personal lunch box. Or you can use it for its intended purpose: to order your food in this container, and when you are done eating, take the leftovers with you to class/library/home. Whenever you are finished, drop off the dirty container at the locations and pick up your card for next time. No need to do your dishes. It is a convenient way to buy one large meal and then eat it whenever you get hungry during the day.”
Finally, why $5? The price seems a little steep…
“Two reasons: providers and loyalty. $5 is slightly less than the cost of the container and card, so it helps the providers make up some of the money they spent on the program,” says Sarah, “and the $5 fee ensures that students are loyal to the program. They will bring the containers back and pick up their card because the card cost $5 and they can not order more food in an eco-tray without it.”
Nonetheless, Sarah shared this tip: “When you are graduating, sell the card to a first year student, and get your $5 back.”
To learn more about the program, call Sarah at (416) 581-8182 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or ask the manager of the location.
*My favorite movie spot? I have to say, the Just Go With It movie spot, despite it being a Jennifer Anniston movie and a romcom, two things I normally don’t go for. It’s so unabashedly un-PC and it pokes fun at the Super Bowl-watching demographics. At least, I hope. Who else is excited for Fast 5/Cowboys and Aliens?