On Jan. 16, Ohio University Culinary Services introduced a reusable to-go box to the dining hall. I decided to try it and see if it was as practical as the university hoped it would be.
The main purpose of the boxes is to reduce the amount of to-go boxes that end up in a landfill every year.
Three hundred students with meal plans are currently taking part in a pilot program to gauge how effective the boxes actually are before OU fully implements them. I was lucky enough to be one of those people.
Full disclosure: I am a resident assistant at Ohio University. I still live on campus and still have a meal plan and have had one for the past three years. I’ve certainly used my fair share of disposable to-go boxes.
In an average week, I venture into the dining hall (mostly Shively Court) about three to four times a week. I tend to spend most of my swipes in the Jefferson Marketplace. That is because the food in the marketplace is (arguably) better, plus most of my friends are upperclassmen who don’t have meal plans anymore. I don’t like eating alone.
The disposable boxes certainly do the job they’re supposed to do. My chief complaint about them is how flimsy they are. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has tripped and accidentally spilled an entire to-go box worth of food on the sidewalk.
When I first heard about the new boxes, I thought it was a good idea. I’ve never really considered how many to-go boxes get thrown away each day. The new reusable boxes will be better for the environment.
Plus, I liked the fact that students can return dirty boxes back to the dining halls instead of cleaning them themselves. I feel sad, however, for the poor dishwashers who, inevitably, will end up washing moldy food out of a box someone left in their room too long.
The box is made of a hard, smooth plastic and is the same size of the disposable to-go boxes. The lid of the box has a lip that wraps over the sides of the box, insulating it and preventing spillage. A clasp on the front of the box keeps the contents inside of it secured.
I was super impressed with how sturdy it felt compared to the current boxes. They were also, seemingly, well insulated. At least, my spaghetti and meatballs stayed warm while I walked home in cold, snowy weather.
I did not have the chance to take the box back to Shively Court before it closed so I decided to carry it around in my backpack through most of the following day.
The good news is that no spaghetti sauce got on my textbooks. The bad news is that it was a huge pain to carry it around in my backpack.
The reusable to-go box took up a larger amount of space in my backpack than I anticipated. I kept wishing I could just take it back to the dining hall and drop it off. I wasn’t able to check, however, whether or not there is a place to return the reusable boxes outside of regular dining hall hours.
I actually haven’t used the box since. Not because I don’t like it, but because I haven’t eaten to-go lately.
Overall, I think the box is a good idea and is designed well. I am interested to see whether or not the reusable to-go boxes are fully implemented next Fall Semester.
I like the reusable boxes and I look forward to reducing how much garbage I put into a landfill. The boxes may be a little cumbersome to carry around, but the extra effort will pay off in the long run.