In one of Colgate’s most recent sustainability efforts, Frank Din-ing Hall will be going trayless be-ginning in the fall of 2012. To get students ready for the change, the Student Government Association (SGA) will be holding “Trayless Tuesdays” throughout the remain-der of the school year beginning on April 10.
Back in 2009, Colgate welcomed its first ever Sustainability Coordi-nator, John Pumilio. Since then, the University has seen a number of improvements toward becoming a “greener” campus. It was with Pu-milio’s help that the Environmental Studies 390 class (ENST 390) was able to make headway on trayless dining in the spring of last year.
The ENST 390 project focused on three main roadblocks to im-plementing trayless dining: How will students respond to the idea of trayless dining? What sustain-ability benefits will result from going trayless? And what changes will need to be made to the current dishwashing system?
The success of trayless dining relies on the inability for stu-dents to carry more than one or two plates of food at a time – an obvious inconvenience for many. Although it is expected that the student body will initially have a negative reaction to going tray-less, many believe that students will ultimately appreciate this sustainability effort.
In a survey conducted last year, the ENST 390 project dis-covered that 33 percent of Col-gate students did not support go-ing trayless, 47 percent approved of the change, and 20 percent were indifferent.
“Many students will probably perceive the switch as an inconve-nience at first, but I’m sure they’ll adapt to the change,” first-year Lau-ra Lee said. “We’re a smart group of kids who realize the bigger effort here, so I’m sure it won’t cause too much trouble.”
How will this impact Colgate’s sustainability in the fall semester?
Here is some food for thought. Every year, Colgate produces about 82 tons of food waste. Throughout the United States, food scraps make up near-ly 13 percent of annual waste, the same waste that ends up in landfills across the country. As it decomposes, it produces a greenhouse gas called methane. With concern to global warming, methane has ramifications that are 21 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.
Sodexo, the dining services con-tractor at Colgate, has already seen a number of its other campuses that have elected to ditch the trays. The impact has been profound.
“Over 40 percent of Sodexo campuses have already gone tray-less and the results are indisput-able,” Pumilio said. “Going tray-less reduces food waste by 30-40 percent. Ultimately, that is less land and resources needed to produce the food.”
Not only have these institutions been able to diminish food waste, but they have also seen cuts in both their water and energy consumption.
Annually, between 10 and 12 thousand gallons of water are de-voted to tray washing at Frank Din-ing Hall alone. Because this water needs to be heated between 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, washing trays requires a significant amount of energy, as well. Eliminating trays would therefore also eradicate these unnecessary energy burdens.
Under the current dishwashing system, the conveyor belt is made specifically for trays, not for dishes alone, which creates a need for a new conveyor belt to be put into place. This installment will take place over the summer of 2012 and it is expected to cost between $80,000 and $100,000. The cur-rent conveyer belt, however, is over 14 years old and is prone to break-downs. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before it needed to be replaced.
But not only does decreasing Colgate’s consumption of food, water and energy have a posi-tive impact on the University’s environmental footprint, it has a profound economic impact as well. Even if the conveyer belt didn’t need to be replaced, it would have paid for itself in under a year. The ENST 390 project estimated that trayless dining would save Colgate from anywhere between $130,000 to $412,000 each and every year. It is expected that these savings will be used to help promote fur-ther sustainability efforts, such as buying more local produce from farms around the area.
In the coming weeks, the SGA’s Trayless Tuesdays will help students ease into a Frank dining experience without trays, while educating the campus about all of the positive sustainability impacts that this change will entail.
“In the end, we hope this ini-tiative raises awareness of the value of food and to only put on your plate what you are going to eat,” Pumilio said.
Contact Cody Semrau at [email protected]