Al's Exchangeables

Soup containers, $3 (one-time fee)

Three-compartment containers, $5 (one-time fee)

Containers can be purchased at the cashier counters in The Alferd Packer Restaurant & Grill.

umc.colorado.edu/exchangeables

As University of Colorado senior Nathan Wheeler gathered his belongings for his second day of classes Tuesday, he had the typical necessities: backpack, laptop, textbooks.

But this year, he's added a recyclable lunch container from Alferd Packer Grill to the load that he totes around campus every day.

"I think the containers are a really exciting idea," said Wheeler, a music major. "It's cheap and it's a step in the right direction of becoming more sustainable and environmentally friendly."

The University Memorial Center Food Service is kicking off its first full semester of Al's Exchangeables, a program to provide students, faculty and staff affordable, reusable food containers so they can grab food on the go without making waste.

Participants pay $3 to $5 for their first container. After that, every time they bring a used container back, they get a clean one for free, ready to be filled with take-out.

Al's Exchangeables began last spring and has already been successful among university staff and faculty members, who visit the UMC grill frequently but don't have time to sit and eat lunch, said program organizer Robin Margolin.

Other to-go containers, not provided by Al's Exchangeables, cannot be used for takeout at the grill because of possible health code violations, Margolin said.

"We wash all the containers when they're brought back and replace them with clean ones so there are no concerns about health in the process," she said.

Donna Sueper, a professional research assistant in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, got her reusable container this summer to improve her environmental footprint.

"It's one small step, but if everyone did it, it could add up," Sueper said.

Several students, though, said the containers' bulk is too much, especially considering their already-heavy loads.

"I think it's a good idea," CU senior Kayla Anderson said. "I just don't know if I would want to carry that container around all day."

CU senior Abel Temesgen said he frequents the Alferd Packer Grill and would definitely consider buying one of the reusable containers, but he wouldn't be thrilled to haul it around.

"I already have to carry around my laptop, books and a lot of other things all day," Temesgen said. "I just don't know if that container would fit into my bag."