Reusable Eco-Containers

We know sustainability is important to you – it's important to us, too! Our reusable eco-containers are a great way to minimize waste when you want to take a meal to-go.

The open collection period is during the first week of the term. See the Dining calendar for dates. After the collection period has ended, students will need to pay $5 to join the program.

The eco-container with the dining token

The Columbia Dining eco-container is a reusable, hard plastic container that can be used to take a meal to go. The eco-container program is open to all Columbia Dining Plan Holders.

Eco-Container Policies

  • The eco-container is the only reusable container allowed in the dining halls. You may not use your own tupperware. 
  • One meal swipe equals one to-go meal with the eco-container. 
    • If you want to take two meals to go (one eco-container and one compostable container), you must use two swipes.
    • If you want to dine-in and take a meal to-go, you must use two swipes. 
  • Eco-containers must be returned to Columbia Dining. Please do not throw them out or recycle them.

The Columbia Dining Token

The eco-container is redeemed in exchange for a Columbia Dining token. 

  • First-year students received a token at Check-In with their CUID.
  • Upperclass students who do not have a token from the previous academic year can request a token from a cashier during the open collection period. See the calendar for dates. After the collection period has ended, students will need to pay $5 to join the program. 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Using the Eco-Container

  1. Exchange a Dining token for a clean eco-container at the cashier station. One meal swipe equals one to-go meal with the eco-container.

  2. Head into the servery to fill up your container like you would your plate – whatever looks good to you! You can only fill one to-go container per meal swipe. If you want to use a compostable container in addition to your reusable one, you’ll need to use two meal swipes.

  3. When you’re done with your meal, return your used container for a token. You can return the container immediately after your meal, the next time you’re dining with us, or when you’re ready to grab another meal to-go, but we recommend that you return the container sooner, rather than later. Please be careful not to misplace your token.

Accepting Locations

Tips for Using Your Eco-Container

  • Watch our reel to see the eco-container in action.
  • The eco-container can be paired with a compostable to-go container for two meal swipes. 
  • Use two meal swipes at the cashier station to dine in and to take a meal for later.

All our dining locations are Department of Health certified. We take food safety very seriously and comply with all DOH policies. The DOH has stringent guidelines regarding the use of personal to-go containers in food service establishments in order to prevent food borne illnesses.

In particular, the DOH requires that all reusable containers are (1) made of food grade materials resistant under normal conditions of use and (2) sanitized in such a way as to kill illness-causing pathogens. By controlling the containers used in our dining halls, and by facilitating the cleaning process, we can ensure that all reusable containers comply with DOH guidelines. The eco-container is the only reusable container allowed in the dining halls.

You’ll thank us when you never have to wash a dish!

Composting is good for the planet, but reducing our waste is even better. We encourage students to take advantage of the reusable eco-containers to reduce their waste as individuals and our waste as a community.

Plus, the compostable containers are 50-cents each. Our reusable ones are complimentary, which means they’re not only good for the planet -- they’re also good for your wallet.

A key element of sustainability is to reduce. We reduce by regulating the number of reusable containers circulating during the academic year. This practice helps to ensure that students return their containers frequently, that fewer containers are abandoned, lost, or thrown out, and that our operations can handle the number of containers being returned for cleaning.

Sustainability is an important component of our operations. Learn more about our sustainable practices.