Tray-less dining in cafeterias reduces food waste

Main Campus Residence Council (MCRC) encourages diners to forgo trays in sustainability initiative

Tray-less dining saves 2,000 gallons of water per 1,000 meals served, according to a Sodexo study. Main Campus Residence Council (MCRC)’s Green Team encourages students to pick plates over trays.
Tray-less dining saves 2,000 gallons of water per 1,000 meals served, according to a Sodexo study. Main Campus Residence Council (MCRC)’s Green Team encourages students to pick plates over trays.
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Trays may become a thing of the past in Queen’s cafeterias.

According to a Sodexo study, 2,000 gallons of water are saved for 1,000 meals served when trays aren’t used, resulting in an energy savings equivalent to 1.8 to 4.4 cents per tray.

Annika Rinas, Comm ’13, said she’s impressed with the initiative to reduce cafeteria waste and has noticed a push towards taking what you need instead of stacking up a plate with an excess of food.

“It’s important to encourage students to recognize that we can have a direct impact on the reduction of waste on campus,” she said. “Simply by being more conscious of what we are eating we can start to make big changes.”

Bruce Griffiths, director of housing and hospitality services, said new cutlery and better dish machines are just some of the start-up costs associated with the new program, but that if tray-less dining allows students to become more conscious of what they are eating and the amount they consume, then it’s well worth the cost.

“We want to try and change students’ customs when it comes to their dining experience,” he said.

“If we want students to go tray-less then we need to acknowledge that there are some changes that need to happen,” he said. “The mini-cups used in the cafeteria are probably first on the docket to go.”

Main Campus Residence Council (MCRC)’s Green Team decided to implement a pilot tray-less dining program on West Campus after concerns arose over the excess waste generated by students in cafeterias, Griffiths said. The Green Team was created two years and aims to reduce waste on campus.

“We definitely took notice of the tremendous amounts of food that students would leave on their plates to be thrown out. The Ban Righ dining hall was the perfect example,” he said. “At first we thought that introducing a mandatory one day a week tray-less dining experience would be something relatively simple to bring to the cafeteria. After speaking with students, we realized that we have to be much more flexible.

“Students were telling us that although they agreed with our goals, they might be rushing to grab a quick meal after class, or having to sit to grab a bite to eat before a practice,” Griffiths said. “There wasn’t an overwhelmingly positive response as a result. That’s the reality of the situation. We can’t expect everyone to immediately get used to our new initiatives.”

This week marks the launch of the Make-a-Choice campaign, where accessibility to trays in the cafeterias across campus will be limited as students are encouraged to go tray-less.

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