Carson Bonner, Campus Carrier news editor
Since Feb. 20th, Berry’s Dining Hall has had green plastic reusable to-go boxes available to students and faculty for purchase. To join the reusable box program, users will pay an initial $5 at a check-in location at the entrances of the dining hall. This cost can be paid with Flex bucks, as well as with cash. The green OZZI brand reusable boxes can be seen across campus and are a facet of the efforts to be more environmentally conscious at Berry.
Since the beginning of the project, the goal has been to increase on-campus sustainability and decrease waste. The Eco Club, as well as the dining committee from the Student Government Association (SGA), raised concerns about how many boxes were being thrown away after a one-time use, and they proposed that the dining hall present a more environmentally friendly option. They felt that finding a more sustainable, carbon footprint conscious option would make a difference in Berry’s sustainability. This led to the partnership with OZZI.
“OZZI boxes are made to reduce extra waste and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing at this point,” Rebekah Guthrie, Aramark marketing coordinator said. “With every purchase we get, we know it’s another disposable to-go box that isn’t being thrown away. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the project so far.”
OZZI, a sustainability organization that partners with services in the food industry, creates biodegradable, reusable to-go boxes that have averted an estimated 25 million disposable boxes from landfills. OZZI boxes are specially designed to be easily sterilized after use so they can continue to be reused instead of being wasted.
“[The OZZI box program] will greatly reduce the amount of trash going to the landfill,” Aramark employee Kathleen Boston said. “The boxes are also very sturdy and moisture proof.”
The OZZI box project is designed to not only be sustainable, but also convenient. Once students pay the initial cost, they receive their first reusable to-go box. After they use their box, they can return it for a clean to-go box. Their returned box will be cleaned, sanitized and sterilized and will be placed back into circulation. If at any time the student decides to opt out of the program, their $5 payment will be refunded and they will return to using regular to-go boxes.
“We wanted this to be something sustainable and affordable,” Guthrie said. “By keeping the boxes circulating, we have less to-go boxes that need to be bought and are able to continue reusing the OZZI boxes. This saves money, and cuts back on a lot of paper waste.”
Student feedback has mostly been centered around the sustainability factor, but others have noted benefits such as being able to microwave the boxes. The sturdiness and moisture proofing allows for food to remain in the reusable boxes longer than the disposable boxes, as any moisture that is in the box won’t soak into the plastic. The disposable boxes have a reputation for being somewhat soggy if food remains in them, especially when refrigerated, so for students, the reusable boxes being moisture-proof is a major benefit.
“The whole project ties back to student input and involvement,” Guthrie said. “The project began because students brought concerns forward, and it can only continue if students engage with the project and participate, and keep participating. We like to see the level of engagement we’ve seen so far and really hope it continues and grows as the project continues.”
Student engagement has not been an issue so far. In the first week of the project, about 130 students have purchased boxes and the dining hall is continuing to make more sales every day.
“I’ve had an OZZI box for a couple weeks and I’ve really enjoyed it,” sophomore Emma Allen said. “I’ve been following eco club since my freshman year so it’s been really cool seeing this project come to fruition. I think if the project gets advertised more, a lot of students will switch over because it really is just a super convenient thing to have.”
As the project continues, the goal is that eventually the OZZI boxes will be the majority of boxes used in order to minimize paper waste. If this happens, Berry will be on its way to maximizing its sustainability and maintaining a more environmentally friendly carbon footprint.