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Tapping Into the Power of Student Engagement for Reusables Programs

Updated: Jun 17

Student engagement is crucial for the success of any campus's reusables program. In this blog, we dive into ReusePass’s unique student-engagement strategies, which drive program adoption, performance, and location growth, resulting in a stronger reusables program that delivers ROI and positive sentiments for campus dining initiatives. We cover the following areas:

  1. Orientation and resident-advisor onboarding

  2. Direct student communication and live support

  3. Topanga Campus Ambassador Program

  4. Loyalty and rewards

ReusePass tabling at App State

The Importance of Student Engagement

Undoubtedly, student engagement is an essential component of a thriving reusables program. Across all of our campus clients, we’ve seen that student participation, feedback, and evangelization dramatically shape the success of your campus’s reusables program––from your rate of adoption and level of effectiveness to your overall environmental impact and program ROI. That’s why we’ve made student engagement a big part of the ReusePass offering. Reusables don’t just start and end with new containers and figuring out dining operations. At Topanga, we believe a successful reusables program is built and maintained by continually investing in your students from the very beginning.

Students are key stakeholders in sustainability initiatives and powerful advocates for change within their communities. Their feedback, ideas, and participation are vital in shaping and refining your reuse program. By actively involving students, universities can foster a culture of sustainability, instill environmental awareness, and promote responsible consumption habits that go beyond your reusables program.

Through ReusePass’s meaningful student engagement initiatives, campuses can harness students' collective enthusiasm and creativity to drive positive environmental impact and create a more sustainable future at their university and in the world.

"It's really hard to find widespread, environmentally conscious initiatives that are as large of a scale as they are at Boston University. I'm really proud of the expansion and implementation of this program on my campus." – Camille, Boston University Ambassador

Orientation and Resident-Advisor Onboarding

Increasing program awareness is a continual muscle that campuses must flex as new students come each year. We make this easy for you by delivering live orientation training opportunities to introduce incoming students to the ReusePass Program on your campus. We then pair this with ReusePass-branded marketing materials specifically designed for orientation, such as bookmarks, brochures, and stickers, to continue familiarizing students with the program.

screenshot of orientation materials page in reusepass academy
ReusePass Academy orientation support

Marketing Signage

Additionally, we offer more general ReusePass-branded marketing signage materials, including everything from posters explaining how the program works, digital screen signage, and Instagram carousel posts, to napkin holders, retractable banners, and return bin wraps. These can be used year round to increase program education and participation.

screenshot of marketing signage materials page in reusepass academy
ReusePass academy marketing support

Check out the rest of what ReusePass Academy has to offer here.

Direct Student Communication and Live Support

To create a frictionless student experience, ReusePass offers all participants an in-house student support line via text and email to help troubleshoot questions in real-time.

ReusePass’s signature SMS nudges and impact reporting emails also deliver proactive communications when it matters. Students can easily track their returns through our web-based app, while due dates and return incentives are seamlessly communicated to students across various touch points via our API.

phone screenshots of SMS nudges from ReusePass
ReusePass SMS nudge example
"ReusePass allows us to eat food in our dorms and multitask and study more effectively. I appreciate how there's a calendar with reminders so that I don't forget to return my box on time." – Student at Oakland University

Topanga Campus Ambassador Program

Topanga is the only reusable platform with a robust campus ambassador program, now live on 17+ campuses. The Topanga Campus Ambassador program empowers students who are passionate about the environment to become leaders in driving sustainability on your campus. As fierce zero-waste advocates, your ambassadors become champions of your ReusePass program and are eager to spread the word and create an impact through student-led initiatives. They even help you gather student insights on improving your reuse program and have helped us improve our product numerous times.

Because of our success with our ambassadors, Topanga has a specific team member dedicated to the campus ambassador program and student engagement. We work closely with your campus and students to create unique tablings and events that drive engagement beyond the transaction.

A few highlights of unique, ambassador-run ReusePass events:

  • Colorado State University ambassadors organized a trash clean-up with a ReusePass-sponsored pizza party, where they picked up 5+ full-size bags worth of trash.

  • Indiana University ambassadors organized a campus survey to gather feedback and ideas on growing the ReusePass program. We learned that reducing late fees would make student diners want to use the program more.

  • Occidental College ambassadors launched student-managed return sites to increase program adoption without adding increased dining demands.

  • Brown University ambassadors launched tabling events to educate peers on the trade-offs of compostable and reusable packaging, leveraging our blog post for helpful talking points.

Loyalty and Rewards

ReusePass offers a gamified experience by allowing diners to track their individual and community impact. We’ve incorporated mission- and community-oriented communications that celebrate students' participation in the greater good. Some examples include 1) return streaks for on-time returns, 2) tangible campus impact cards to show relatable, collective impact, and 3) reuse report cards showcasing the student’s return rate while educating them on why reuse matters.

phone screenshots of ReusePass gamified experience
New product features coming Fall '24.

Campuses can also partner with Topanga to create customized rewards tailored to your campus goals. Thanks to our transparent and traceable data and our direct line of contact to students, we can easily support diverse loyalty and rewards activations for your campus. Some examples include:

  • Hosting competitions among residence halls, reengaging lapsed users while generating new traffic to dining locations.

  • Offering sign-up incentives at launch, such as the first 50 students get a reusable water bottle.

  • SMS updates highlighting community impact have resulted in measurable participation increases.

Campus Spotlight: CalPoly

ReusePass launched at Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) in Spring ‘23. Below are details of their launch and student engagement success:

  • To increase program education, Cal Poly implemented Topanga’s turn-key marketing materials and return bin signage across campus and around dining locations.

  • Topanga led a launch-day tabling event to raise program awareness and engage students.

  • Topanga launched Cal Poly’s campus ambassador program and recruited passionate students seeking ways to advocate reuse.

  • Cal Poly participated in Topanga’s Cross-Campus Earth Day Challenge with ambassador-led promotion.

Cal Poly students holding reusable container
Our awesome Cal Poly students and ReusePass users!

Topanga launched a unique loyalty activation for Cal Poly with the dining team's support: the Thank You Notes SMS campaign. The goal was to see if thanking users for their participation drove increased engagement in the ReusePass program.

The message:

“We wanted to reach out and say THANK YOU!! You are a top ReusePass reuser and we think that’s pretty awesome 🥳 🤩. By renting and returning containers, you’ve helped eliminate waste on campus and provide a cleaner, greener, environment. Because of you, 1,173,672 containers have been saved from landfill ♻️ 🌍. Our team at ReusePass dreams to eliminate unnecessary waste, and that wouldn’t be possible without users like you. THANK YOU 🫶”

The results were awesome! Our data proved that students who received a Thank You message were statistically significantly more likely to check out more containers in the following weeks. This held true for highly engaged and lower-engaged students as well.


To learn more about student engagement strategies and hear from actual student ReusePass users from OXY, Boston University, and WSU, check out our student panel webinar here.


If you’re interested in learning what ReusePass-levels of student engagement could look like on your campus, reach out to us at

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