University of Wisconsin-Stout

March 30, 2011

At University of Wisconsin-Stout dining halls, students no longer have to compromise their green principles when taking out meals.

University Dining Services recently began offering students the option of reusable containers when carrying out a meal. Instead of trashing takeout containers and utensils, students can bring them back.

“Simple steps can make a huge difference,” said Kayla Eernisse, a sophomore from Cedar Grove who is using the sustainable dining option. “I feel like I should take the responsibility to be part of it.”

Eernisse, a dietetics major, is part of the Student Dining Service Dining Advisory Committee, which recommended the reusable containers option to help reduce campus waste.

Students normally are charged 60 cents extra for disposable to-go containers. With the reusable container option, they pay one-time fees of $5 for a rigid, hinged container, $3 for a cup and 25 cents for each piece of purchased silverware.

"In the end I thought I’d be saving money,” said Eernisse. “You even can use it next semester.”

Students must remember to return the reusable items before ordering their next takeout meal. Then, they are given fresh containers/silverware, and the ones they’ve returned are sanitized.

Since the program began in early February, 35 students have signed up for the option and used it more than 250 times, keeping 500 containers/beverage cups from the landfill.

“The reusable container option is a good idea because we’re throwing away less resources,” said Ann Thies, director of University Dining Services.

Even if students don’t sign up for the reusable container option, they could compost 95 percent of the throwaway containers. Stout switched to compostable takeout containers about two years ago.

Nearly 26,000 takeout meals a year leave UW-Stout’s two dining halls, Merle M. Price Commons and North Point. More than 520,000 meals are served each academic year.

The Student Dining Services Advisory Committee meets monthly. Students on the committee get one free meal a week in exchange for volunteering to help evaluate food and services. “They’re our secret shoppers,” Thies said.

In January of 2010, University Dining Services also began composting all food waste through Veolia Environmental Services. Since then, about 100 tons of food have been diverted from the landfill, Thies said.

For more information, contact Thies at 715-232-2134 or

Mini-Mart opens at Price Commons

University Dining Services recently opened a convenience store, Mini-mart, on the first floor of Price Commons. The shop includes grab-and-go products and grocery items and a place to order hot food — for pickup upstairs in the dining hall — late at night.

The store is open until 11:30 p.m. or midnight seven days a week. Price Commons is centrally located between five residence halls on south campus.

“The intent is to provide something students need for their room. It’s primarily for students who need a half-gallon of milk, a frozen pizza or bread,” Thies said.

The Mini-Mart replaces a Price Commons food cart, which provided snacks, beverages and quick lunches.

A convenience store at the Memorial Student Center is not open this year because of a renovation project. When the student center reopens in spring 2012, the student center store will carry fewer grocery items than in the past and the Mini-Mart will remain open, Thies said.