UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into reusable container food outlets Merry, Kohle; Pau, Richard; Bontempo, Adam; Mazurek, Kris


The Student Union Building (SUB) of the University of British Columbia is commonly recognized as the central hub of the campus—it acts as a meeting place among students of all faculties across the campus. That being said, it is no surprise that the cafeteria in the SUB is extremely popular, serving more students than any other food establishment on campus. The Alma Mater Society (AMS) of UBC is currently in the construction phase of building a new SUB, which will house a new cafeteria featuring 11 food outlets. With UBC’s push to improve sustainability, the AMS is looking into operating one of these as a ‘Bring your own container’ (BYOC) outlet, in which students would not be served food in disposable containers. The change from traditional single-use containers is particularly tricky, as university students typically do not have time or patience to vary from their normal routines. This report looks into the feasibility of operating one of these BYOC outlets, with the intent to eventually shift other food outlets on campus to the BYOC ideology. The investigation was conducted through a triple bottom line analysis, focusing on the economic, social and environmental impacts of operating a BYOC food outlet. The study was mainly conducted focusing on two main types of reusable containers, glass and plastic, as they were found to be the most likely candidates (Al-Khalili, Lau, Chan & Chen, 2011). A student survey was carried out in order to determine the economic and social beliefs held by students in regards to the BYOC idea (Appendix A). Additionally, research on other institutes and businesses with similar concepts was conducted to forecast some of the possible outcomes that putting in a BYOC food outlet on campus would have. Provided there is some financial benefit associated with bringing your own container, and easy access to purchasing reusable containers, this analysis concluded that the BYOC food outlet concept is worth implementing. Not only will it allow students to save money, but it will also promote UBC’s sustainability initiatives and act as a pilot project for BYOC food outlets on campus. The BYOC food outlet was found not only to have a successful business model, but it could be considered to be the next step forward to make UBC a more sustainable campus. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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