The Case for Trayless

1 March 2009

“Food for Thought” is a student-run initiative at Carleton to reduce food waste in the Burton and LDC dining halls.  According to Food for Thought, the Carleton dining halls produce about 2,700 pounds of food waste per day.  There are several ways that Carleton could reduce food waste in the dining hall.  Some university dining services purposefully serve students small portions to discourage students from taking more than they can eat.   Others have utilized a food pulper and extractor to grind up and remove the water from food waste.  Carleton is currently exploring this option.  Another tactic is to implement a la carte dining instead of the more traditional all-you-can-eat format.  Gustavus Adolphus College has reduced food waste by 80% since switching to an a la carte format (Star Tribune Article).

   Bon Appetit

Colleges have several great options for reducing food waste, but the most popular method has been removing the trays from the dining halls, or ‘going trayless’.  Why go trayless?  Trayless initiatives in college dining halls have reported that students take less food and dish-washing machines use less water and energy.  How much?  The most comprehensive study of trayless dining services was conducted by ARAMARK Dining Services—a food service provider for 600 colleges and universities across the United States.  In a study of food waste at 25 of these institutions, ARAMARK found that trayless dining reduced food waste by 25-30% on average (Aramark Study).

A Minneapolis Star Tribune article reports that Hamline University saved 12 cents per person per meal by going trayless during fall 2008—this will save Hamline an estimated $25,000 by the end of the year (Star Tribune Article).

Despite the significant economic and environmental benefits of trayless dining, some students complain that trayless dining is inconvenient.  Even if there are significant economic and environmental benefits to trayless dining, it doesn’t make sense to go trayless if students most students don’t support this change.  However, ARAMARK has also conducted a survey of 92,000 students, faculty, and staff at 300 schools to measure support for trayless dining (see previous link).  ARAMARK found that 75% of student respondents would accept, “the removal of trays from all campus dining locations in an effort to reduce waste on campus.”   Over 250 ARAMARK campus partners have already removed trays from their residential dining locations in an effort to reduce food waste and conserve water and energy.

Food for Thought has proposed that Carleton dining halls go trayless every Friday during Spring Term.  Bon Appétit is receptive to this program; most of Bon Appétit’s customers have already adopted trayless days or have removed trays from the dining halls completely.   The Carleton Dining Board has also been discussing this matter.

I hope that the College will make a full transition to trayless dining at the beginning of fall term 2009.  Hundreds of other colleges and universities across the country have gone trayless.  The environmental and economic benefits are definitive.  A minority of students may protest loudly to trayless dining, but ARAMARK’s study clearly demonstrates that a majority of college students support trayless dining.  Now Carleton students need to show that we are not exceptional in this regard.

To express your support for trayless dining, contact members of the dining board:

Dining Board

  • Staff: Allison Albritton, Dan Bergeson, Greg Colline, and Steve Wisener
  • Faculty: None
  • Students: McKay Duer ’10, Chelsea Jones ’09, Becca Kilman ’11, Amy Sun ’11

Trayless Dining in the Media