Chartwells officials have seen a loss in profits since selling reusable take-out containers in lieu of offering Styrofoam containers at Jones Dining Hall as part of a move to be more environmentally friendly.
Jones’ Eco To-Go Box was introduced last spring. If a student chooses not to purchase one of the reusable take-out boxes, they must use a Styrofoam tray that does not close if they want to take food from the dining hall to-go. Abel Valencia, Chartwells marketing manager, said officials purchase the containers at $4.62 plus tax, which totals more than the one-time $5 fee students pay for the box. Additionally, Valencia said a lack of advertisement led to low sales for the boxes. He said 1,440 of the eco-friendly containers have been sold since their introduction.
Chin-Hong Chua, Chartwells resident district manager, said in addition to the profit loss on each container, Jones officials must stock at least two clean boxes for every one sold. This is because the boxes are cleaned on site upon their return.
Chua said Chartwells decided to move forward with the project despite the financial loss because the containers are eco-friendly.
Valencia said the eco-friendly containers are manufactured by G.E.T. Enterprises. According to the G.E.T. Enterprises website, the containers are made of Polypropylene, are 100 percent BPA-free and are certified by NSF International, which develops standards and tests food, water and consumer products.
“We might not see the reward right away, but in the long term it is a good thing to have,” Chua said. “Sometimes we do things not necessarily for profit.”
Valencia said the eco-friendly containers are a part of Chartwells’ sustainability program.
Vanessa Cortez, Associated Student Government president, said she was approached with the idea of reusable take-out containers by a Texas State student, who found a similar program, eco2go, on
the University of Texas website.
Cortez said she thought it was a great idea and brought it to Valencia.
“We as students use Styrofoam a lot, and it is very hard to recycle,” Cortez said. “We want to reduce the amount we use, and this is a really good way to reduce it.”
Cortez says she encourages students to buy the containers.
“Hopefully we will see a lot more students using them this year,” Cortez said.
Noelle Brooks, art education senior, said she uses the eco-friendly container on her daily visits to Jones because, even though she recycles, she feels it is not enough.
“This helps me reduce my use of plates,” Brooks said. “I can use it over and over.”
Brooks said she wishes more people would use the containers and were more aware of the program.
“I saw another person using it the other day for the first time, and I thought, ‘I’m not the only one,’” Brooks said.
Brandon O’Hara, management freshman, said he was not aware of Jones’ Eco To-Go Box.
O’Hara said he uses the Styrofoam take-out trays and has never seen anyone use the eco-friendly containers.
Valencia said he would “love” for Chartwells to expand the program across campus, calling the reusable boxes sturdier, easier to use and more environmentally friendly than its Styrofoam counterparts.
Chua said Chartwells must look at the viability of expanding the program. He said it would not be possible at places like The Den because of “operational challenges.” Valencia said using the eco-friendly containers at places like Harris and Commons dining halls would not make sense.
“If you want to look at other locations, we need to see if it’s feasible or convenient for students,” Chua said.