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Trayless? Really? When I started hearing that colleges were going trayless all I could think was, "how is saving plastic by not using a couple of trays going to cut down on the environmental footprint of a campus that is the size of a small town?" Well actually, according to the New York Times, several studies have been done now pointing to rather large savings, and we're not just talking waistlines. As almost half of the 300 schools with the largest endowments across the US go trayless, we thought we would take another look at this latest method to save some green.So how does not using a tray benefit the environment? Apparently using that tray allows students to stockpile food like they're in a depression era - the same food that many of the studies found also ends up completely uneaten and in the garbage. If you only have your two hands to hold your dinner, then your eyes are suddenly not bigger than stomach and you mentally weigh getting up repeatedly to get more food with just eating what you have and only going back if you're actually still hungry.
Going trayless also helps save water because as students conserve plates, silverware and cups, it also means extra water isn't being used to wash all of those items. Some students report that the trayless dining halls make the area feel closer to home and less like an institution. Another benefit - students are less likely to gain the freshman 15 because they don't have a way to just pile the tray high with food and sweets and breads and cakes and several drinks.
Benefits of Colleges Going Trayless
Williams College saved 14,000 gallons of water last year by changing one dining hall to a trayless system. They plan to change their other 3 dining halls to trayless due to the successful program. Rochester Institute of Technology noticed a 10% drop in food costs by going trayless, despite rising food prices during the same period.
Moravian College (PA) is going completely trayless starting this fall after they had such a successful "Trayless Tuesdays" program. Their studies showed a 25% savings in food waste and as many as 25% of the student body now voluntarily chooses to go trayless every time they eat in the cafeteria. Moravian College has also committed that all financial savings they achieve through the program will be reinvested into the cafeteria and food programs.
American University (DC) environmental science students conducted their own research on going trayless and found that there was a 47.1% savings of food waste during the dinner hour and a 30.8% reduction in plates and bowls. Both sectors also had savings during the lunch hour, though the percentages were lower.
One casualty of going trayless: the loss of automatic sleds when the first snow of the season hits. As a student on the east coast who had never seen snow before college, and who also remembers vividly clambering for a cafeteria tray for both shield and shovel during the school snowfight, this is a big loss. A big loss indeed. :New York Times:Moravia College :American University
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