A growing importance on preserving the environment, health and well-being of people today has transpired into a great awareness and further move for change across the U.S.
Among the movement for change, college campuses have joined the cause for reducing food, energy and waste in ways that benefit them economically and sensibly. Though hard economic times have weighed heavily on college campuses in recent years, many institutions have recognized the need for sustainability within their communities in any way possible. At my school, Connecticut College, a primary example of heavily reducing our energy and waste economically was to remove food trays from all cafeterias and significantly cut down on water usage in clean-up areas.
As early as 2007, the dining service faculty at my school conducted trial "trayless" days in the main cafeteria to observe the impact this effort had on students and their daily routines. Though some students longed for the familiarity and convenience of plastic cafeteria trays, the general student opinion was positive on the decision to go trayless. The dining services faculty reported that the removal of cafeteria trays had reduced food waste by approximately eight percent, also saving extra time spent on the clean up and removal of extra waste. After more research, experimentation and discussion with the student government and other school members, the college made an official decision to remove all food trays from the cafeterias on campus.
Gone were the days of piling unthinkable amounts of food on your food tray, only to realize you weren't as hungry as you'd thought and finishing only about a quarter of the food you snatched. I noticed students taking reasonable amounts of food from the food lines and actually finishing the food on their plate. Though some students felt trays were more convenient in carrying and eating enough food to satisfy themselves, they quickly adapted to walking back to food lines for seconds and felt more satisfied in knowing good food wasn't going to waste as much. I realized that I wasn't wasting nearly as much food as I used to, as it was easier to take only as much food as I could fit on my plate and as much as I felt my stomach was craving. And for the food that I did find myself leaving behind, the school also provided cafeterias with new compost bins to more effectively utilize and organize waste for use in fertilizer, farm food and other recyclable purposes.
I'm happy my school has committed to providing a more sustainable campus life, even if this may be a small blip in the movement towards a greener future. I certainly feel that my school's decision to remove cafeteria trays has been a small realization for me and my fellow students that we need to alter our lives of over-consumption for our own well-being and for the well-being of the environment.
As more institutions across the nation follow in providing healthier life alternatives for people, there is more hope in creating a united change for the future of our environment.