Sure, college students may have grown up with them since their earliest days in preschool. They were a staple item that was necessary in any school cafeteria before picking up your utensils and that slightly warm plate.
This semester, however, both of the University of Miami’s dining halls began serving its meals without trays.
“Over 125 major colleges and universities implemented trayless dining,” said Mel Tenen, assistant vice president of dining and vending services. “One of the interesting phenomena is that many students already chose not to use a tray; they chose to do it on their own.”
Tenen states that trayless dining was implemented for a number of reasons. It conserves energy by not needing hot water for tray washing, saves on the cost of water, energy, detergents and rinse/drying agents and significantly lessens food-waste removal costs.
According to Tenen, 1.2 million meals are served a year through the university’s dining halls, with roughly 4,000 students utilizing school meal plans.
Trayless dining was implemented before the fall semester when athletes, band members and resident assistants returned to campus.
“We found that not only were there no complaints, but there were very positive comments by students,” Tenen said. “We have found that students really prefer the dining ambience that has accrued from not having a tray.”
Tenen said that the initiative was implemented in a joint effort with student government.
“We feel that going trayless in the dining halls falls right in line with the university’s green policy commitments,” Student Government President Lionel Moise said. “We will save from the amount of water, energy and chemicals used to wash the trays.”
Moise’s student government electoral campaign included trayless dining as one of its green platforms in last semester’s elections.
“As students, we ask for a lot, and it is important that we also find ways for the university to save and to conserve our environment,” he said.
Tenen estimates that the change to trayless dining would reduce water use by 300,000 gallons and 184,000 pounds of overall waste per year.
“I actually like the switch to trayless dining,” junior Jeremy Scharf said. “When I dine I usually dine with friends, and trays simply were too large to sit comfortably. It encourages students to be more conservative with the food that they eat.”