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Alfred University goes green by going 'trayless'
1/23/08

Across the nation, the old college tray is becoming a thing of the past. Beginning this semester, Alfred University Dining Services will join the list of those going “trayless.”

When AU students returned to campus this weekend, they found the trays gone from Ade and Powell Dining Halls, said Kathy Woughter, vice president for Student Affairs.

The impetus for shelving the trays came from Green Alfred, a group of students who promote sustainability; the Environmental Studies Program, an interdisciplinary major; and the Student Dining Advisory Board, Woughter explained. She said across the country, colleges and universities are seeing a significant reduction in post-consumer waste, simply by doing away with the trays.

“After seeing evidence from other institutions, the student groups at AU decided to look at how much we might be able to reduce waste on our campus,” said John Dietrich, director of dining services. The results from two separate test dates on Alfred University’s campus were astounding: Simply by not offering trays, food and beverage waste was reduced by 30 percent, and sometimes up to 50 percent, he said.

“At Alfred University, that equates to approximately 1,000 pounds of solid waste and 112 gallons of liquid waste on a weekly basis,” he said. “That’s a significant amount of waste – more than 15 tons a year in solid waste – that we can keep from going into the county landfill.”

There are challenges for students in connection with going trayless, Dietrich acknowledged. “It’s tougher to get your food and beverage selections to the tables without trays, but to minimize the difficulties as much as possible, additional silverware stations will be set up in the dining areas to reduce the number of items that need to be juggled at once.
Even though the trays will be gone, students will still have the “all-you-care-to-eat” option they now enjoy, he said; they will simply have to make more trips to get more food.

There were other environmental benefits as well cited by the student groups, Dietrich noted. “Without trays to wash and sanitize, chemical and water use will be reduced.” AU’s Dining Services will track the savings in water and chemical costs.

Going without trays is not the only step Alfred University’s Dining Services is taking to reduce waste. Working with the Environmental Studies Program, Dining Services is composting pre-consumer waste. Cardboard, glass, plastic and tin have been recycled for years, and beginning Jan. 31, Dining Services will launch “Focus on Alfred,” a reusable travel mug program.

Woughter said Alfred University’s Dining Services, which is operated by AVI Foodsystems, Inc., “should see a reduction in food and beverage purchasing costs if the projected waste reduction numbers prove accurate.”

If that’s the case, she said, Dining Services has pledged to provide more specialty items on the regular menu, including more shrimp and scallop dishes, specialty desserts, more steak sandwiches and even roast lamb. Tempeh and seitan will be added to the vegetarian selections.