The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s new “Good to Geaux” containers are designed to be taken anywhere – except landfills.
The reusable hard plastic containers hold takeout meals from UL Lafayette’s Café Fleur de Lis, Cypress Lake Dining Hall and Lagniappe Café. They’ve replaced disposable plastic containers as part of the Good to Geaux initiative being coordinated by the University’s Office of Sustainability and Campus Dining Services.
“Good to Geaux is expected to keep about 225,000 disposable plastic containers out of waste streams each year, a significant stride in the University’s campus-wide push to produce zero waste,” said Gretchen LaCombe Vanicor, director of the Office of Sustainability.
The efforts underscore environmental objectives enumerated in UL Lafayette’s Sustainability Strategic Plan. The plan calls for reusing, recycling or composting trash.
Campus will benefit from Good to Geaux as much as the ecosystem, said Monica Rowand, the University’s sustainability coordinator. “The reusable containers will reduce the amount of trash that ends up in bins, which will reduce waste management services costs.”
As part of the program, students with meal plans receive one free container. Diners without plans can purchase their first container for $4.99.
After meals, empty containers are deposited into what Rowand describes as “reverse vending machines.” In exchange, “they get a non-monetary token that they redeem for another container before their next meal,” she explained.
Containers retrieved from the receptacles will be thoroughly washed and sanitized in industrial-grade dishwashers.
“We’re encouraging people to return containers immediately after they eat to prevent inundating dining services staff at peak meal times, and reduce the likelihood containers will get lost or broken,” Rowand explained.
Machines for returning containers are at five locations.
Cypress Lake Dining Hall and Lagniappe Café in the UL Lafayette Student Union each have one. Café Fleur di Lis, near Legacy Park Apartments, has a third machine. The Ragin’ Cajuns Food Court in Agnes Edwards Hall and the Cox Communications Athletic Complex also have machines.
Dining halls aren’t the only spots on campus where eco-friendliness is on the menu. During the 2018 football season, fans at home games began eating from reusable containers and biodegradable plates using wooden forks, spoons and knives.
The shift marked the latest gain in the University’s zero waste efforts at Cajun Field, a move that also saw composting added to existing recycling efforts.
The efforts mean as much as 75 percent of the recyclable and compostable materials recovered after football games are now diverted from landfills, Vanicor said.
Recovered materials go to facilities for recycling, and to the University’s 600-acre Experimental Farm near Cade, La., for conversion to compost that’s used to fertilize campus greenery.
Materials also, in some cases, end up as outdoor seats. Discarded ice bags and cling wrap are sent to a company that makes park benches from the plastics.
“Finding creative ways to convert waste into resources are central to responsible environmental stewardship, a role that the University remains committed to for the betterment of our campus and community,” Vanicor said.