Students eating lunch at the Commons Dining Hall yesterday and today found themselves without trays in an effort to reduce food and water waste.
The trial, led by the Student Environmental Action Coalition, began when a dining hall employee read an article in The Flat Hat about similar programs at Alfred University in New York and Colby College in Maine. The employee then passed the idea on to Commons Director Larry Smith.
“Lots of schools have had success with [programs like] this in the past,” Smith said. “The Caf seemed like the perfect place to try it out.”
Smith, better known to students as “Caf man,” said he was inspired by the article and sought out SEAC to begin work on a proposal. Smith said that the Caf would work best of all the dining halls on campus due to its variety of food options and the number and close proximity of plates.
“At the Marketplace, going trayless would be impossible, and the UC is all over the place,” Smith said. “At the Caf, you want your food, [and] the plate is right there.”
The program operates on the principle that, with trays, students are likely to take more food and not give much thought to how much they will actually eat. Ultimately, much of this food ends up in the trash. Without a tray, however, students might be more wary of what they pick up.
“The mission of this campaign is to foster responsible eating,” SEAC co-facilitator Josh Wayland ’08 said. “Any way we can reduce food waste, we will [… With a trayless program], students take less food at first and, if they eat it all, then of course they can go back for seconds.”
Originally, plans called for a week-long trial, but this trial length was shortened when those involved worried that such a rapid change would discourage people from seeing its potential merit.
“This way, if people don’t originally like it, they can relax for a couple days,” Smith said.
SEAC members are collecting data on food waste and hope to see the effects by the end of the month. Though no numbers currently exist, several members of Dining Services have already noticed a change.
“People’s plates aren’t as full as if they’d had a tray,” employee Delphine Bartlett said. “They’re taking smaller portions to allow for more kinds of food.”
Student response to the program has largely been positive.
“If it reduces waste, I’m all for it,” Anushya Ramaswamy ’10 said.
Others reported that their already limited use of trays made the transition easy.
“I never use trays anyways,” Kate Tyler ’10 said. “They make me feel like an awkward freshman. I’m anti-tray.”
However, not all response has been positive.
“It’s a pain in the ass to not have a tray to carry all my bloody plates,” James Muirhead ’11 said. “[Making trips] is inconvenient.”
After the trial period, SEAC is hoping the program will be enacted permanently to reduce the College’s environmental footprint.