HDH Eco-Container Pilot Program

UC San Diego Housing•Dining•Hospitality (HDH) is currently piloting a reusable to-go container program available at two on-campus dining locations, Roots and Pines in Muir College. When visiting either of these locations, you can swipe your ID to check out a container and fill it up at a self-serve station or pass a closed container to an employee at any food station.  When finished with it, simply rinse the container out, and then return the container to any residential dining facility. The UCSD Sustainability Resource Center reached out to HDH to find out more about this initiative and how it’s going so far.  Dave DeCaro, the Director of Marketing & Communications at HDH, got back to us with some great answers, providing more insight about the future of this program:  

How was this project started? Where did the initial interest in starting a program like this come from?

“It has been the goal of Dining Services for some time to reduce single use packaging in our operations. With the UC Zero Waste initiative, now more than ever this is a focus for us. Our student advisory committee identified reusable to-go containers as a point of emphasis for us last academic year, and we set about building a program to bring this to campus. Our current program was inspired by the success of a similar program at UC Irvine, and through reaching out to our contacts in University and College Food Services around the country, we were able to come up with what we feel is the best plan for a program like this to be successful at UC San Diego. The use of reusable to-go containers is something that we have tried to integrate into our practices a few times in the past 5 years, but our previous pilots at Café Ventanas and Oceanview lacked interested from the community at that time. With the current climate surrounding sustainability, now more than ever we are seeing an interest from our community and core customers in reducing their use of single use plastic items, and we’re confident and excited that this program will make an impact.”

What are the current goals of HDH with this project? Do you hope to expand across all the dining halls on campus?

“Our initial goals with this project are to determine how to best implement this program in a manner that will make it as customer friendly as possible, and that will encourage our customers – student, staff and faculty – to become active partners in our efforts to reduce single use packaging in our environment. Over the course of Winter and Spring Quarter we will track our success based on customer participation, container re-use, and reduction of single use packaging used at Pines and Roots. Our long term goal is to make this a program that is successful with our guests and operationally sustainable so that it can be expanded to include Residential Dining Facilities in all six colleges.”

This program has now been launched for a few days. Can you speak to its initial success? Are these reusable containers something that students seem interested in?  

“We’ve been pleased with the success of this program after its first week – we’ve seen increased participation each day of the program, and we’re now up to 36 active participants in the program. Compared to our previous pilots, this is already the most successful program we’ve instituted. We’re still working to get the message out to our residents through tabling, advertising in residential spaces and social media. UC San Diego is a diverse community with a number of different prospective – It’s clear to us that while l interest may be varied across the student body as a whole, there is a large community of students here at UC San Diego that are interested in the program and are passionate about making environmentally conscious decisions in how they dine with us. We’ve been pleased with the initial interest in the program and are looking forward to helping it to grow.”

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Did you know Roots is the University’s first exclusively vegan eatery and lounge? Click here to learn more about sustainable dining in HDH.

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