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Going trayless in the cafeteria

There is a simple step universities can take to reduce food waste, save energy and maybe even help students from gaining the dreaded "freshman 15."

By LÉO CHARBONNEAU | APR 30 2009

Apparently there is a simple step universities can take to reduce food waste, save energy and maybe even help students from gaining the dreaded “freshman 15” (referring to the amount of pounds a student supposedly gains in his or her first year). The answer: eliminating trays from the cafeteria, according to an article in the New York Times.

The article says “scores of colleges and universities” across the U.S. are shelving the trays in hopes of conserving water, cutting food waste, softening the ambience and saving money. Not having trays may also prompt students to reduce the amount of food they might otherwise pile on them, thus helping the students to avoid gaining weight.

Citing a report on college sustainability practices by the Sustainable Endowment Institute, the Times article says that of 300 colleges and universities tracked, 126 had curtailed the use of trays. Such moves “are often part of a larger push to embrace environmentalism that includes hiring sustainability coordinators, introducing solar panels, composting dining-hall waste and encouraging students to turn off lights.”

At least one Canadian university can boast that it was ahead of the trend: Dalhousie University did away with its trays more than a year ago, in March 2008. According to the Dalhousie University Student Union Sustainability Office, the university’s food service provider, Aramark, is saving approximately 4,000 litres of water a day and approximately $13,000 worth of electricity over a year.

If you’re aware of any other Canadian universities out there who’ve shelved their trays, let us know.

ABOUT LÉO CHARBONNEAU
Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau has been the deputy editor of University Affairs since 2003. He started the Margin Notes blog in 2009 and it has gone on to win several awards, including Best Blog at the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.
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