Queen’s introduces reusable swap programs at dining halls & some retail locations

Huskee Swap, ECO Container programs aim to reduce waste amid COVID-19 health guidelines

The programs are available at all three dining halls.
Journal File Photo

Hospitality Services launched two reusable container programs on campus in November: the Huskee Swap Program and ECO Containers.

“Strides have been taken over the past few years to reduce waste and plastics on campus, including moving towards compostable packaging, moving to paper straws and paper bags, and encouraging reusable products to name a few,” Jessica Bertrand, wellness and sustainability manager at Hospitality Services, told The Journal.

“However, COVID-19 has brought many changes to Hospitality Services this year to protect the health and safety of our customers and staff in ongoing consultation with Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health and Queen’s Senior Leadership.”

Partnering with Common Ground Coffeehouse, the Huskee Swap Program has been implemented in all three dining halls and four retail locations offering to-go beverages, including KHAO, MC2, The Lazy Scholar, and Location 21. 

The Huskee Cup is available for purchase and opt-in for $25 with a student card and $27 for other members of the community. Hot beverages purchased in a Huskee Cup are discounted $0.25 as a loyalty reward. 

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The ECO Container program, which had been piloted in some campus locations last year, was also reinstated in the dining halls, as well as KHAO, Flipit, The Lazy Scholar, and Location 21.

Students can opt into the ECO container program for a $5 deposit, which can be refunded upon returning the container at the end of the year. This process ensures the program is sustainable in the long term.

Last year, the University piloted the ECO Container program at Jean Royce Dining Hall from September 2019 until residences were closed in March because of COVID-19. During the initial pilot, 470 students and staff opted into the program and made over 7,500 swaps. 

Both of these programs work on a swap basis, where students who opt into the program can receive their order in a clean container and return their used container for cleaning.

“Pre-COVID, Hospitality Services went from offering many self-serve options with dine​-in only to now having full service with many prepackaged items, along with meals to-go, which has never been offered in the past,” Bertrand wrote. “Personal mugs and reusable containers are also not permitted as per Public Health regulations due to these current restrictions, and the ECO Container program was not permitted upon opening in September.” 

“While limited dine-in capacity is available with 2-metre distancing between chairs, taking meals to-go is required to further facilitate physical distancing efforts.”  

Bertrand said a single compostable container system was implemented in September to reduce the amount of packaging that was initially being used in the fall term. 

“[W]e knew it was imperative to find ways to further reduce single use packaging given the current global environmental crisis,” she said.

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In its third week of running, more than 90 students have opted into the Huskee Swap and ECO Container programs and over 190 containers and cups have been swapped across the participating locations.

“We are also currently seeking franchise approval to implement this program in Starbucks and Tim Hortons on campus,” Bertrand wrote.

Students can pay for the program using debit, cash, or the flex dollars that come as part of the meal plan for those living in residence. Recognizing there may be financial barriers for students interested in joining the program, Bertrand said the University is currently considering financial assistance options. 

“Students with financial restrictions that prevent them from participating in the ECO Container program are welcomed to email dining@queensu.ca to discuss any available supports,” Bertrand said.

“While COVID-19 has required the use of more meals to-go, and a resulting increase in the use of packaging, we are working hard to keep sustainability top of mind.”

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