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Vanderbilt adds reusable to-go containers in campus dining

Vanderbilt University has implemented a new reusable to-go container system in select on-campus dining halls. The university’s new “Fill it Forward” initiative is part of a larger plan to improve sustainability on campus.

According to an official university release, the Fill it Forward program took effect August 9 and enables students to take away food from eligible dining halls in reusable to-go containers, in lieu of paper-based takeout boxes that the university had been using.

Each Vanderbilt undergraduate student was issued one free container. The containers are then returned for cleaning and sanitizing.

Using the Fill it Forward app, students can track their return, then scan a new code to rent a new container. Additional containers are be available for $5 each and can be purchased at dining hall cashier stands.

To use the container program, Vanderbilt students first register using the free Fill It Forward app. When they arrive at the dining hall, students then scan a QR code at the entrance, show the rental receipt to the dining hall cashier and receive their reusable container.

Students use a meal swipe to take the container into the dining hall and fill it with food.

When in comes time for the student to return their container, they can choose any participating dining hall, scan both the QR code on the “return poster” and the QR code on the container they are returning and drop the container in a designated bin. Student will be charged $5 for each container that they check out before returning the initial to-go container.

“Launching the Fill it Forward program is a big step forward in our drive to offer sustainable dining at Vanderbilt,” says Maria Portelli, Senior Director of Campus Dining at Vanderbilt University. “Based on surveys and feedback, our students have long advocated for environmentally friendly packaging, and we know that Vanderbilt Student Government has expressed particular interest in a reusable to-go system. We’re proud to reduce our environmental footprint and look forward to more initiatives like this in the coming years.”

As of September 7, over 1,300 Vanderbilt students had registered for the program, with some 3,000 total container rentals.

In addition to tracking container rentals, the Fill It Forward app also measures the environmental impact of each student’s use of the program. According to the university, an estimated 1,840 kwH of power, 3,132 pounds of emissions, 96 pounds of waste, and 19 pounds of ocean pollution have all been saved in just the short time since the program took effect.

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