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Duke Dining looks to promote sustainability with return of reusable mug program post-pandemic

Running low on food points and want to promote sustainability on-campus? You can now bring a reusable mug to get 20% off select orders at certain dining locations on campus.

Duke Dining started a reusable mug program in 2008 as part of its sustainability efforts, allowing students to be served beverages in their own mug as opposed to single-use cups, according to Robert Coffey, executive director of dining, in an email to The Chronicle. The program was discontinued in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, but was reinstated in 2022.

To receive the 20% discount, customers must order in-person and use a clean mug that is 16 ounces or smaller, according to Coffey. The program is limited to drip coffee, tea and fountain beverages, as “other types of beverages can require mixing in the customer’s reusable mug which presents sanitation concerns and therefore is not allowed.”

“Initially, there were some barriers getting this program back running as Dining had to get the discount option loaded onto registers through [Office of Information Technology],” wrote junior Ashley Bae, senator and vice president of DSG’s Services and Sustainability Committee, in an email to The Chronicle. 

Junior Christina Ferrari, who participates in the program, said that she feels that not many people know about the program.

“The policies on it are really vague and ambiguous too … I don't even think the employees really know when to use it,” Ferrari said. 

Ferrari is also part of Scoop Duke, a student-run group that consults with local Durham businesses to improve their sustainability practices. Last semester, Scoop Duke worked  with sustainability staff at Duke and Crystal Dreisbach, CEO and founder of Don’t Waste Durham, a nonprofit dedicated to combating Durham’s plastic pollution, to initiate a more intensive reusable mug program at Beyu Blue. 

Despite enthusiasm from Duke’s sustainability directors, there was too much uncertainty to get a more intensive mug program at Beyu Blue into action, Ferrari said. Questions revolved around the costs of buying reusable mugs, how they would circulate and how people would return them. 

 “And also washing issues — would people wash them on their own, or would Beyu Blue wash them for you?” Ferrari said. 

In addition to the reusable mug program, Duke Dining also has a reusable food container program in many locations at the Brodhead Center, including Krafthouse, Tandoor, Gyotaku and JB’s Roast & Chops.

Bae believes that the reusable container policies are “greatly under-utilized" post-COVID. 

"No one really remembers what pre-COVID dining at Duke looked like, and students are trying to re-establish the norm of what sustainable dining looks like on campus," Bae wrote. 

The participating on-campus dining locations are:

  • Beseisu 
  • Beyu Blue 
  • Beyu Caffe at Duke Law 
  • Café 
  • McDonalds 
  • Panda Express 
  • Saladelia @ The Perk 
  • Saladelia at Sanford 
  • Trinity Café 
  • Twinnie’s  
  • Zweli’s  

Editor’s Note: Christina Ferrari is also a staff writer for The Chronicle.


Madeleine Berger profile
Madeleine Berger | Editor at Large

Madeleine Berger is a Trinity junior and an editor at large of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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