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Sustainability at ESF
Reusable Containers

Look closely at the image above and you will see reusable containers ready for use at our Newcomb campus! These reusable clamshells make low waste field work a breeze and are part of ESF's push to rid campus of single use plastics (and single use products in general). Learn more about this initiative by reviewing our Green Purchasing and Break Free from Plastics Policy.

Reusable cups and containers can also be found at the Ranger School and Cranberry Lake campuses. The Trailhead Cafe re-launched its reusable container program at the start of the Spring 2023 semester.

The program at the Syracuse campus has undergone many pilot launches and revisions over the last few years. In the recent past, reusable clamshells and soup cups were made available to the campus community, alongside single use compostable clamshells.

It was our hope that most community members would opt to use the reusable containers, but less than 2% of Cafe orders used the containers and we found that a large number of customers were ordering their food to go in single use compostable clamshells and then eating in the Cafe concourse! The Office of Sustainability enlisted the help of EWP 407 Writing for Environmental & Science Professionals students to survey campus to better understand why reusable containers were not more heavily used.

The Office of Sustainability worked with Trailhead Cafe operators to streamline the reusable container return process and link them to ESF/SU ID cards. Signage located in the Cafe and on containers themselves explain the return process. Reusable clamshells and soup cups are now the only to go container option for members of the campus community, with limited exceptions. This will drastically reduce the cost of both containers and composting on campus.

If a member of the campus community fails to return three separate reusable containers, they will be assessed a fee and/or will be charged $.75 for a compostable clamshell and $.50 for a compostable soup container.  Cafe customers without an ESF/SU ID will be charged these fees for use of compostable containers. 

ESF's zero waste and circularity philosophy continually challenges campus to recognize that durable and reusable products are always more desirable than single-use products, even if those products and recyclable and compostable.

Rangers make lunch, using reusable containers, at the newcomb campusRangers make lunch, using reusable containers, at the Newcomb campus