Northern Arizona University leans into reuse

The university has recently implemented a required reusable container system at select campus restaurants.
Usefull's reusable containers
Usefull offers stainless steel reusable containers. | Photo courtesy of Usefull

Northern Arizona University (NAU) is making big strides toward a more sustainable campus. To that end, the university is the first higher education institution in the state to implement a required plastic-free reusable container system. The reusable system is offered at select campus restaurants through a partnership with Usefull, a plastic-free reusable container company.

The containers on offer are stainless steel and can be found at three retail dining locations: Lemon Grass Kitchen, Turnip the Greens and Cobrizo Mexican Grill. The university also plans to expand the program to additional locations next year.

The first year of the program is completely funded by the university’s Green Fund, its main source for sustainability funding.

Prior to this current program, Northern Arizona University Campus Dining did offer a reusable plastic takeout container program, but the program saw a high loss rate with 87% of the reusables never returned, according to a statement.

Under the new system, students can check out their containers by scanning the QR code on the bottom of the container. Students must also download the Useful app to participate. The app allows students to monitor their personal impact as well as view campus-wide waste, emissions and water reduction.

In the first year of the partnership, the university projects it will keep 40 tons of carbon dioxide out of the air and more than 12 tons of waste out of landfills.

“We are excited to provide students and other NAU community members this opportunity to take action toward reducing waste by simply dining at these popular restaurants, checking out the reusable containers, and returning them when they are done,” said William Brandt, campus dining marketing director at Northern Arizona University, in a statement.



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