Featured School of Medicine Waste

Introducing Reusable Boxes at EPNEC

In January 2024, WashU School of Medicine is launching an exciting new initiative to reduce catering waste at the Eric P. Newman Education Center (EPNEC). The EPNEC event team, WashU Sustainability, and Bon Appetit Management Company are partnering to offer reusable containers for boxed lunches at events held within EPNEC. 

This exciting new program was made possible by the generous donation of 500 reusable boxes by earthday365, a non-profit dedicated to environmental sustainability in the St. Louis region. The boxes were originally intended to be used by local restaurants as part of an EPA-funded project of earthday365’s Green Dining Alliance program (of which Farmstead is a certified 5-star restaurant). However, the program took a necessary pivot and no longer had an outlet for them. To continue promoting a circular economy in St. Louis, Jessica Watson, Executive Director of earthday365, reached out to the WashU sustainability team with hopes to donate the boxes to a responsible partner. Ivy Magruder, General Manager of Bon Appetit at the School of Medicine, and Mark Catubig, Director of Catering, enthusiastically accepted the gift. 

After the new year, those who are planning events at EPNEC can request reusable boxes through the EPNEC event coordination team. EPNEC is an ideal location to roll out the reusable box program; not only is there is a dedicated event support team, but EPNEC events are exclusively catered through Bon Appetit, which allows for consistency in program offerings and increased communication between event and catering staff. 

Jill Vander Pluym, an events specialist, hopes that introducing the program will pave the way for more sustainable events at EPNEC. She states, “I am excited to offer the reusable boxes as an option to EPNEC clients. This is a manageable and concrete step that the EPNEC team can take toward our sustainability goals.” 

While the reusable boxes will not be used at every event, the catering team anticipates that this program will drastically reduce waste generated at EPNEC events, where they currently serve an average of 500 boxed lunches each week. Collection stations will be available at events utilizing the reusable boxes, with clear signage to help attendees determine where they should go. The boxes are made of polypropylene and are dishwasher safe up to 1000 uses, after which they can be recycled. 

Ivy is looking forward to the launch, noting that “(f)or us at Bon Appetit, this program completely aligns with our core values.  We are excited to partner with WashU Sustainability, the EPNEC team, and the School of Medicine community to offer this more sustainable alternative.”