Students who visit D2 and Shultz dining centers in summer 2008 and next school year will likely notice something missing. While D2 and Shultz will continue to serve the same delicious fare and the format will still be all-you-care-to-eat, diners will find that the trays have gone absent.
Where have they gone? It turns out that a trayless dining format, which has been growing in popularity on campuses across the country, can help reduce food waste by as much as 50 percent over the course of a year. And now, in order to join the movement and promote sustainability, D2 and Shultz dining centers will be going completely trayless as of July 1, 2008.
The decision to remove the trays follows a successful test week in April during which trays were removed from D2 dining center. The pilot study resulted in a 38 percent reduction in food waste, or the equivalent of 1,546 pounds of food.
Other Atlantic Coast Conference schools have reported positive results as well. Clemson University reported a 4,585 gallon reduction in water use as a result of a trayless initiative implemented during Earth Week 2008. Likewise, Georgia Tech estimates that they have saved nearly 3,000 gallons of water a day since going trayless in November 2007.
Many schools credit the energy and water savings to the fact that without trays, students have to think more carefully before selecting their foods. This results in less food waste, as students are less likely to take foods they will not end up eating. As a result of the reduced food waste, less water and energy are spent cleaning trays and plates and processing uneaten food. Over the course of a year, these savings can help a school significantly reduce its impact on the environment.
The advantages of going trayless aren't just limited to the environment, however. Some schools anticipate that with an absence of trays and an increased awareness of food consumption, portions may begin to drop as well, resulting in healthier students and slimmer waistlines. Other schools expect that cutting back on food waste will allow them to save money on food in the long run -- a savings they can then pass on to their students.
Whether the focus is economic, environmental, or health-driven, Virginia Tech is optimistic about the initiative.
Written by Chris Gustin.