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By Eric Weld   Date: 6/15/10 Bookmark and Share

Would You Like That to Go?

In the ongoing campaign for environmental sustainability, big initiatives make the news, but it’s the little ideas, collected into everyday actions, that will ultimately bring about necessary change.

Take, for example, pizza boxes—the cardboard kind that house your steaming pie and soak with grease after it’s eaten. Because of that grease, those pizza boxes are not recyclable, and clog the landfills by the millions.

Harun Iyigel, co-owner of Pizza Amore on Green Street, displays one of three reusable pizza boxes employed by the restaurant.

The solution? Reusable, plastic pizza boxes, an idea being tried this summer at Smith on a pilot basis.

Spearheaded by Katherine McCusker, mentoring coordinator in the Clark Science Center, the reusable pizza boxes initiative will circulate three plastic pizza carry-out containers used by the Green Street restaurant Pizza Amore. Each container will be washed by Pizza Amore personnel after each use. The reusable boxes are estimated to last for 500 uses by the product manufacturer, DMS Innovation, and are recyclable at the end of their usability.

“I order a lot of food as part of my job,” says McCusker, “and therefore throw out the food containers, such as pizza boxes. The waste piles up and it occurred to me that it should be possible to use reusable containers instead of throwaway.”

McCusker, with the support of Heather McQueen, administrative assistant supervisor in Clark Science Center, approached Pizza Amore about the idea, and the partnership was born.

In addition to the positive environmental impact, reusable pizza containers save money and manufacturing resources, says McCusker. One cardboard pizza box costs about $.75, or $375 for 500 versus $13 for one reusable container, usable 500 times.

McCusker and McQueen are watching the pilot phase of the program to determine if the DMS boxes will work well in the long term and to answer other questions. “If we conclude reusable boxes are the way to go, we’d like to see them used all over campus,” she says, “and spread the idea to other campuses. Also, if Pizza Amore is successful with them other pizza parlors in town might follow suit.”

While she expects a positive reaction at Smith to the reusable boxes, McCusker is realistic. “I wouldn’t expect a wholesale, overnight change or anything,” she says, “but if some of us show that it’s a workable proposition, I don’t see why it wouldn’t take off.”

McCusker and McQueen hope to explore employing reusable containers on campus with other types of food as well—multiple little ideas contributing to the big picture.

“The impact of a reusable pizza box is obviously not the same as properly insulating a building,” she says, “but I’m a believer in the every-bit-counts strategy. The cumulative affect of many little changes will help get us to our sustainable goal.”


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