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Earlier this year, Penn Dining gave students on a dining plan free reusable utensils, along with other promotional items, to promote its Green2Go program.

Photo: Irina Bit-Babik

Disposable plastic takeout containers were once the bulk of Penn Dining’s carbon footprint. Today, they are becoming a thing of the past.

In the past, Penn Dining had purchased hundreds of thousands of disposable plastic containers to accommodate the demand of students who are on the go. In recent years, Penn Dining has implemented the Green2Go Program to combat the abundance of plastic waste that students were accumulating.

“In residential dining halls we had used slightly over 171,000 old plastic containers,” Tom MacDonald, Operations Manager for Hospitality Services, said of the 2012-2013 academic year. “After the first year [of Green2Go] we went through and looked at how many we had given out, and it was 1,168 containers.”

The program is funded by a Green Campus Partnership Green Fund grant and is offered at 1920 Commons, Hill College House and Kings Court English College House.

Any student on a meal plan can get a free Green2Go tag at Stouffer Commons, and then trade in the tag for his first green container at a dining hall. Students can clean their used container themselves or trade in their used container for a sanitized one. Disposable utensils are also provided, but students are highly encouraged to invest in their own set of reusable utensils.

While the Green2Go containers are provided free of charge for students on a meal plan, those who would still rather use a disposable container are charged $2.

“We want people to be able to use these free containers ... if you want to put plastic into the landfill, you will be charged,” said Pam Lampitt, the director of Business Services who oversees Penn Dining.

Columbia University had a very successful Green2Go program several years ago, and Lampitt recognized that Penn’s urban environment is quite similar to Columbia’s.

“We knew that if we could implement this Green2Go program, not only could we still be providing for that [on-the-go] lifestyle of our students, but we could do it in a much more sustainable way,” Lampitt said.

Last year, Penn Dining sent out a package to every student with a dining plan, which contained a Green2Go tag, a box of reusable dining utensils and a tote bag that provides a five-percent discount at Penn Dining’s retail operations.

In the near future, Penn Dining hopes to continue to reduce dining waste. They also have their eyes on a plan to expand their food recovery program.

“We have continued to be sustainable, and we want to focus on our carbon footprint,” Lampitt said.

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