The Student Assembly announced Tuesday that the Sadler Center RFoC would be joining the Commons dining hall in lessening the College of William and Mary’s environmental impact by adopting a trayless program.
The move represents one of many initiatives administrators and students plan on taking to improve food sustainability on campus.
The campaign to make Dining Services more environmentally friendly began three years ago.
“We learned that we were behind,” Commons Director Larry Smith said of the environmental footprint at the time.
Since then, efforts led by both dining services and the Student Environmental Action Coalition have included introducing biodegradable take-out containers and fair trade coffee. Now, the list will include trayless dining.
According to an article in The Guardian, cafeteria supply company Aramark estimates that 1.6 to 1.8 ounces of food is saved per meal by going trayless.
Last semester, SEAC’s Food Sustainability Campaign held a trial of the trayless program, measuring water usage and the amount of food waste, but deemed the results inconclusive.
“We were planning to continue with testing this semester,” SEAC member Connor Horne ’10 said.
However, at the beginning of this year, Smith and Director of Dining Services Phil DiBenedetto decided that making the trayless program permanent would be the best choice for the campus.
“It’s asking ourselves the question of ‘what do we want to do for the environment?’” DiBenedetto said. “It was time to make a move.”
During a tour DiBenedetto gave to the SA and the Food Services Advisory Committee of the dining hall two weeks ago, the topic of the trayless program came up.
“I was asked where we would be doing trayless next. At that time I thought … about the Marketplace as a possible location. The group thought that was a bad idea and suggested the SC,” DiBenedetto said. “I told them that if they thought it was a good idea, we would work on it.”
Even though he had reached a decision, he was surprised to hear of the SA’s announcement.
According to DiBenedetto, dining services still needs to figure out how the trayless program will be implemented at the Sadler Center.
As for a trayless Marketplace, DiBenedetto hasn’t ruled it out, but plans on asking diners for input before taking action.
SEAC co-facilitator Charlotte Davis ’10 was surprised but pleased by Dining Services’s initiative. According to Davis, the trayless program makes a substantial difference on the green front. She said removing trays eliminates an average of three-and-a-half hours of dishwashing each meal, saving both money and thousands of gallons of water each semester.
“I think we’ve got some good responses,” DiBenedetto said, adding he hoped that Dining Services and the students could continue working together to reduce the College’s environmental impact and improve its sustainability.
Both SEAC and DiBenedetto want to increase the amount of local produce in the dining halls. SEAC has been in contact with local farmers and the Williamsburg Farmers’ Market. The organization also has a close relationship with Dayspring Farm, a local farm with environmentally sustainable produce.
“We were connecting with the land and finding out where our food is coming from,” Davis said.
A campus garden, tended by SEAC members, was planted last year.
“It’s going really well,” Davis said. “We have two plots and we have students out there working every weekend.”
“We grew a lot of food over the summer as test crops,” Horne said. “Our goal this year is education and awareness-raising.”
Horne added that the food grown in the campus garden this semester will be donated to the local food bank.
The campaign is also hoping to expand its campus-wide composting program this year. The initiative will include composting students’ personal trash and teaching students how to compost.
Davis urged students to talk to the administration about the changes they want to see, especially with the creation of the College’s Committee on Sustainability last spring. The committee, composed of administrators and two students, will determine how the recently-instituted Green Fee will be spent and how to further improve campus sustainability.
He added that student involvement is the best way to effect change.
“Environmental sustainability needs social sustainability to succeed,” Horne said.