Some College Cafeterias Go Trayless to Save Energy and Money

Posted on September 17, 2009

The L.A. Times reports that some colleges are elimating cafeteria trays in an attempt reduce food waste and cut food and water bills. The colleges believe kids may waste less food if it is more difficult to carry it.
Call it eco-dining, or another sign of tough economic times in American academia. Pomona this fall joined a growing number of colleges in California and across the nation that have eliminated cafeteria trays in an effort to reduce food waste, cut water usage and save on energy bills.

Students' reaction has been mixed, but Owens and others say they are adapting for the sake of the environment, their schools' budgets and their own waistlines. If they can't carry all the food they want in their first trip to the serving stations, they say, they will make one or two more. And if they wind up with fewer second helpings of granola or ice cream, so be it.

"It's definitely difficult and a little bit inconvenient," Owens said amid the hubbub of Pomona's Gothic-style Frary Dining Hall. "But I like the intentions. The intentions are good, to be more aware of the environment and all that. So it's a small sacrifice to make."
The financial and energy savings from this plan are probably small and the increased number of spills in probably large. The tables are also messier and students will use more plates than they normally would. UC Santa Cruz says they have been trayless for a year and managed $100,000 in annual savings. The L.A. Times says that Northern Michigan University had to switch back to carrying trays after students complained that not having them was inconvenient.