“The containers were harmful to the environment — and to Next House,” said house dining chair Anne Juan, a junior in mathematics. In the past, Juan noted, common spaces were cluttered with discarded plastic-foam containers, leaving behind both a mess to clean up and an odor problem.
In the new system, students get a free, wallet-sized card that allows them to checkout an EcoClamshell (also known as eco-takeout boxes or “green boxes”) and then exchange it for a clean one the next day.
“The card idea developed from feedback we received that some people didn’t want to keep a dirty container overnight until they could exchange it for a clean one the next day,” Juan said. Now students have the option to bring the green box back the same night in exchange for a card that they can then use to checkout a container in the future.
The card idea is similar to what is used in MIT Recreation for gym members to checkout towels. At all times, students are in possession of either a card or a box. Additional or replacement cards cost $5 each.
The green box program is student designed from start to finish. To generate ideas, Juan consulted with Next Exec; Marietta Lamarre-Buck, general manager of house dining; Rich Berlin, director of campus dining; and Simon Nasser, operations manager for campus dining. She also gathered input from Next House residents. The card was designed by junior Antony Nguyen, Next House's executive secretary and historian.
The green box program started in Next House last spring, and added the card system this fall. Now, Baker House, Simmons Hall, and McCormick are also plastic foam-free. Further developments to the Next House system will include the option to allow guests to get dated, temporary cards to checkout boxes.
“The program has been a success,” said house dining’s Lamarre-Buck. “And the number one reason for that success has been because it was student-generated and student-driven. They really did a great job."