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Mission Green introduces to-go food containers that are washable and reusable

Florida Atlantic University students carry around multiple heavy textbooks, binders and notebooks to and from class everyday. Now, several students also carry a large plastic food container that resembles a lunch box from elementary school.

Though it may seem like a burden, lugging around these large lunchboxes is voluntary for those participating in a new program that is eliminating the eco-damaging to-go food containers on campus.

This pro-environment program, which began August, was introduced to FAU by Stacy Volnick, director of business services who recently was named interim assistant vice president for financial affairs.

Volnick teamed with FAUs Mission Green, a student-run environmental club, to expand and promote the program that wants eventually to replace the bad polystyrene containers for those that students can take home and bring back. The containers are washable and reusable.

Each container costs FAU Business Services $3.50, but they will be available to students at $5 each. Volnick said that adding the extra $1.50 will go toward the detergent and water used to clean the containers every time they are returned.

“This program is not about making a profit or saving money for FAU,” said Alex Van Mecl, president of Mission Green. “It’s about cutting back on the consumption of polystyrene containers.”

Getting rid of the polystyrene would make at least a slight diffrence in the damaged environment, Mission Green members say. Polystyrene is not easily recycled because of its light weight and its low scrap value.

Also, according to The Daily Green online publication, because polystyrene is light in weight, it will not only float on water, but also blow in the wind, often polluting shores and waterways. The debris may also be harmful to animals if they ingest it.

The program will be monitored to ensure containers are returned. Every time students come to the cafetaria to buy a to-go meal and their Owl Cards are swiped, the cahier's computer will indicate whether or not they have a container under their name. If students lose a container, they must pay $5 for another one.

“We considered making this program free, but then there would be no incentive to get the used containers back, and that is really the point,” Volnick said. “The program is only as good as long as those students who buy the container return it over and over.”

Van Mecl said a school such as the University of Florida, one of the many that have a container program, inspired Volnick to introduce the container program to FAU.

“[The container program] was something that was being done at several other schools,” Volnick said, “We had been talking about bringing it into FAU for a couple of years now [and] trying to find the right product for the to-go containers.”

To spread the word, Mission Green and Volnick will advertise the program in the Boca Raton campus residence halls and in the Center Marketplace. Flyers will be put up and word will be spread by mouth by Mission Green members.

“I think this program sounds like a great way to help the environment since many people use the cafetaria everyday,” says Gal Kol, a senior communication major. “It will make some kind of an impact.”

But many are not as inclined to the program as Irene. FAU senior Michael Maloney, studying graphic design, thinks differently.

“I’m glad this program is not mandatory. I wouldn’t want to be hassled with carrying around a container all day,” Maloney said.

Sophomore Lamonte Bryce had mixed feelings.

“It sounds like a good way to help the planet, but it’s not for me. I’m not up for carrying a used lunchbox all over campus. But if others are doing it, then good for them. Maybe they could motivate and convince people like me to join the cause.”

Volnick is confident, though, that the container program will succeed.

“We feel that this program, coupled with all of our other past [environmental] programs – including cage-free eggs, growth hormone-free meats, recycled paper goods, safe-caught seafood and others—really enhace our food services program," she said.




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