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The Green Life: Colleges Ditch Cafeteria Trays to Reduce Waste

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April 29, 2009

Colleges Ditch Cafeteria Trays to Reduce Waste

Dirty trays Wandering around the campus dining hall, it's easy for college students to be cavalier about their meal choices: Everything is prepaid, none of it is self-made, and the dishes magically do themselves. When the eyes are bigger than the stomach -- especially with all of the tasty vegetarian and vegan options now popular on campuses -- entire dishes often go untouched. In an effort to cut down on waste, the Green Report Card has found that a number of schools are simply getting rid of cafeteria trays.

Out of the top 300 colleges and universities with the largest endowments, a reported 126 have either ditched or cut back on tray use with positive results. Williams College saved 14,000 gallons of water last year by eliminating all of that tray-washing in just one of their four dining halls. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, when students could only take away what they could carry, the dining hall saw a marked drop in food waste and a 10 percent savings on food despite rising prices.

Research by a Skidmore College senior revealed that her tray-wielding classmates produced 300 to 400 pounds of leftover food per day. If the trayless movement takes off, a similar system in hospitals and cafeteria-style restaurants could go a long way to prevent mountains' worth of discarded food.

--Jordana Fyne


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