Eco-Ware: Reusable Take-Out Containers

Eco-Ware is the reusable take-out container exchange program created by University Dining Services to take a bite out of the environmental impact of take-out dining. It works like this: You buy a container for $7.50 to start up. After you've finished your meal, turn the Eco-Ware container back in and get an Eco-Ware "Cow Tag." When you're ready for another take-out meal, you simply exchange your Cow Tag for a clean container and repeat this process again and again. UDS will sanitize every container in the same high-power dishwashers they use to clean plates and silverware and inspect them before putting them back into circulation to ensure cleanliness. You can use your meal points to buy the container initially, and UDS will give you 15 cents off every time you use your Eco-Ware!

The program is open to anyone (including staff and faculty). Please check out the Eco-Ware Facebook page, which includes a Frequently Asked Question section and other information about the program.

And check out how hip these Eco-Ware containers are on the Eco-Reps YouTube video.

Eco-Ware History

A big thank you to the students in the Honors College, the Greenhouse program and Eco-Reps for their role in making Eco-Ware a reality. University Dining Services conducted three pilot programs in two years at the Marche before launching Eco-Ware in Spring 2011 to a larger audience. Student feedback was crucial. They developed the Eco-Ware structure in place now by using what we learned from other schools and with what we learned here during the Marche's pilot programs.

Where is Eco-Ware?

The initial program ran at the Marche and at Brennan's. In Fall 2011... the program will expand to other retail take-out programs on campus including: DC Marketplace, the Given Atrium, and the Waterman Cafe & Manor.

Why $7.50?

UDS looked at similar programs at other schools and found that the best programs are financially self-sufficient, since they don't rely on continuous cash infusions to keep them running. The containers themselves, each costing around $3.50, are much higher quality containers than those that were used in the pilot programs. The Eco-Ware buy in level of $7.50 covers the cost of your first container, the container waiting for the exchange, the cow tags that are used for the exchange, and some of the additional dishwasher supplies/labor costs of cleaning the containers. Since the disposable plates and to-go boxes cost around 5 cents each, you'll get a discount for every Eco-Ware meal purchased.

As long as you don't lose your container or cow tag, your original $7.50 is all you need to contribute to use the Eco-Ware program again and again, and every time you use it you'll save 15 cents and keep a disposable plate from going to landfill.

Why we need it!

If you think about it, take-out dining generates a huge amount of waste. If you eat just 2 take-out meals per school day every week of the school year, and use 2 disposable utensils each time, you'll use at least 340 plates or to-go boxes and twice as many utensils per year. Not only is that just one person's disposable packaging use, it doesn't even count beverage cups or bottles, soup containers, or prepackaged salad/sandwich containers. Multiply all of that by the thousands of customers UDS serves and you can quickly see why this is such an important program. While Unlimited Dining uses washable dishware/utensils and is by far the least environmentally impactful way to eat, there is obviously a strong demand for take-out dining here at UVM and Eco-Ware is a very important step towards reducing the environmental impact of to-go dining. If the program is successful, it could extend into Eco-Ware soup containers and more!