There is a new movement taking hold at colleges and universities across the nation. It's a movement that aims to conserve water, reduce food waste, improve living conditions, save money, and help students make healthier choices at mealtime. It's called Trayless Tuesday ... and it's catching on.
I can still remember meals in my undergrad dining hall. In an effort to avoid having to get in line again, students piled their trays high with glasses of soda, main entrees, side dishes, and desserts. But while it saves the students' energy in avoiding duplicate trips to the meal line, piling trays with food and drinks wastes food, energy and water. And many think the practice could contribute to the dreaded “freshman 15” — the number of pounds supposedly gained in a student's first year on campus.
Many schools are embracing an initiative called Trayless Tuesday, and giving up the trays in campus dining halls for one day each week. The theory behind Trayless Tuesday is that by ditching the tray, students will be more selective about the foods they eat at meal time and will have to make a conscious decision about whether or not they are really hungry enough to warrant a second (or third) trip back through the line. Many schools claim the initiative decreases food waste that is often produced by the "eyes are larger than the stomach" philosophy.
The Sustainable Endowments Institute, a research organization that tracks environmental practices at the 300 colleges and universities with the largest endowments, said that almost half (126 schools) had curtailed use of trays in at least one dining hall on campus. Here are just a handful of the schools that have reported significant environmental and financial savings since instituting Trayless Tuesdays:
- Williams College in western Massachusetts: The Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives estimates that the college is saving 14,000 gallons of water annually since eliminating trays last spring at one of its four campus dining halls, where previously 147,000 trays had been washed a year. The college's other dining halls are scheduled to go trayless in the fall.
- Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., stopped using trays last summer at one of five dining halls on campus and has seen a marked drop in food waste, estimating a food spending savings of 10 percent on food spending despite rising ingredient costs.
- University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire: Dining hall staff have noticed a marked reduction in the almost 400,000 gallons of water for dish washing alone since implementing Trayless Tuesdays.
I did a quick search today and found lopsided support online for groups that oppose Trayless Tuesdays altogether. For instance, on Facebook, the group "Students Against Trayless Tuesdays" has 555 members, while the group "Petition to End Trayless Tuesdays at Drexel," has more than 300 members. Conversely, the "Terrific Trayless Tuesday" group has 7 steadfast members.
Personally, I think the Trayless Tuesdays initiative is a great idea, and one that I'd like to see trickle down to high schools, business centers, office complexes, hospitals and other cafeteria programs.