Starting in late October, the Food Literacy Project and Harvard University Dining Services rolled out a new reusable container program in the Cronkhite Dining Hall.  A graduate dorm located on Brattle Street, Cronkite houses students from a diverse mix of Harvard graduate Schools. Though the takeout boxes at Cronkhite before this new program were compostable, the new containers reduce unnecessary waste and encourage a culture of reuse.  

Last spring, the Food Literacy Project piloted the reusable container program in Dudley House to great success. In addition to Cronkhite and Dudley, the program is also in place at the Kennedy School and the School of Public Health’s Sebastian’s Café. 

Students and dining hall staff are overall very pleased with the program, both for its impact on sustainability and convenience. The reusable containers are easily available at the ID checking table at the entrance to the dining hall. Students can carry these containers out of the dining hall, and when they are done, return them to the dining hall to be cleaned. When the containers are returned, students can either pick up a clean new box for another meal, or claim a wallet-size card to later exchange for a to-go container. 

Fabio Almeda, a Cronkhite resident studying at the Law School, thinks that the new containers are a much better solution because he worried that the old compostable boxes would take a long time to decompose. He appreciates the simplicity of the process and lightheartedly added, “I like the green color of the box as well!”

Caitlin, the popular ID checker at the Cronkhite dining hall, has witnessed a surge of student enthusiasm for the program.  She estimated that about 75% of students are using the new containers instead of the old disposable boxes. “Especially in the beginning, students were excited and really liked the idea. They asked a lot of questions,” Caitlin explained. She also mentioned that residents enjoy the durability of the container as well as the sustainable impact. “The old disposable containers leaked, whereas the new to-go boxes are sturdy and green!”

Many residents have voiced interest in expanding the program by doing a similar to-go mug for coffee and drinks. The Food Literacy Project and HUDS are currently working on this initiative at Cronkhite. Reusable mugs are available at all HUDS retail locations for $2.99, with the first fill free. Patrons receive a discount anytime a mug is used at these locations across campus.