Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 71.94
Liaison Dennis Cochrane
Submission Date Dec. 19, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Virginia Tech
IN-25: Innovation B

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Gwyneth Manser
Sustainability Manager
Dining Services
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Name of innovative policy: Reusable To-Go Container Program – Using Campus Partnerships, Innovative Technology, and Program Expansion to Encourage Student Buy-In and Participation

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

Virginia Tech Dining Services is recognized as one of the flagship programs for the OZZI Company’s Reusable To-Go collection stations. To date, Virginia Tech owns and operates four OZZI return stations and thousands of to-go containers. While Virginia Tech has offered Reusable To-Go options since 2013, in the fall of 2016 Dining Services made significant programmatic changes to encourage student buy-in and participation. These innovative changes included integrating the machines with the campus ID system, making the program free to use, and collaborating with partners across campus.

History and background:
In 2013 Virginia Tech Dining Services introduced a Reusable To-Go container program to campus in order to reduce waste and minimize our carbon footprint. While a number of committed students utilized the program regularly, several factors prevented the Reusable To-Go program from being a resounding success. From 2013-2016, students were required to buy into the program in order to participate, which meant that many students were wary of using the reusable containers because of the $12 investment. In addition, our OZZI collection stations dispensed tokens to indicate when a container was returned. As a result, students who did buy in to the program had to keep track of their tokens in order to exchange them for a Reusable To-Go container each time they wanted to use the program. Not surprisingly, many students noted that they often lost the tokens, and that this was a significant barrier to participation.
Innovation and Improvement:
In the past two years, Virginia Tech Dining Services has pursued several innovative solutions in order to improve student buy-in for the Reusable To-Go program. In the fall of 2016 Virginia Tech integrated the OZZI return stations with the Virginia Tech campus ID system (“Hokie Passport”). This enabled Dining Services to phase out the use of tokens, thus simplifying the Reusable To-Go container checkout process. This also allowed Dining Services to provide students with real-time emails letting them know how many containers they have available to checkout, since users can only have up to three containers checked out at any given time.
In addition to making the program simpler to use, Dining Services wanted to make the program more accessible for everyone on campus. In order to accomplish this, we also eliminated the need for students to buy in to the program. Today, everyone at Virginia Tech with a campus ID is automatically enrolled in the Reusable To-Go program. This has allowed us to reach a wider undergraduate audience, and has opened up the program to graduate students, faculty, and staff that might not otherwise participate. Furthermore, in the fall of 2017 we added an additional OZZI collection station to campus, and began piloting two additional types of Reusable To-Go containers. Prior to the fall of 2017, only three compartment Reusable To-Go containers were available on campus, which were not conducive to foods like salads and soups.
Part of improving buy-in for the Reusable To-Go program also involved changing campus culture around to-go containers. In an effort to promote the use of the Reusable To-Go program, Virginia Tech Dining Services has fostered cross-campus collaboration with Student Government Association (SGA), Housing and Residence Life (HRL), and the Office of Sustainability. In the spring of 2017, SGA and HRL committed funds to purchase a new Reusable To-Go container for every student living on campus for the fall of 2017. When students arrived to campus in the fall, every on campus room contained a Reusable To-Go container with instructions on how to use it. Dining Services also worked with the Office of Sustainability and HRL to promote the program in the residence halls and living spaces on campus.
The Reusable To-Go program at Virginia Tech has seen many evolutions over the past five years, and will continue to evolve over time. Cross-campus collaboration and partnerships, the adoption of innovative technology, and the expansion of the program have played a critical role in improving student buy-in for the latest stage of the program’s evolution.

Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
Campus Enagement
Food & Dining

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :
The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:

Additional documentation to support the submission:

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