Colleges Trading Up Cafeteria Trays

Students will have to find other ways to sled this winter as U.S. colleges retire cafeteria trays to conserve water and energy and cut down on wasted food and water-polluting detergents. While some schools are now using plates in dining halls in their efforts to “go green,” others, especially in the Southeast, are taking the measure to remedy a drought-stricken climate.

The Georgia Institute of Technology, for example, has been able to conserve 3,000 gallons of water per day without trays, according to an Associated Press report.

Farther north at the University of Maine at Farmington, 288,000 gallons of water have been saved since the school went trayless in February 2007, according to an Aramark spokesman.

Food vendor Aramark conducted a study of 92,000 students, faculty and staff at 300 institutions and reported that 79 percent of respondents said they would accept not having trays in cafeterias. Additionally, another study conducted by the company at 25 schools found that food waste per person was reduced by 25 to 30 percent when trays were not used. Proponents point not just to the environmental benefits of not providing trays, but to the fact that consumers will no longer be able to pile on more food than usual and overeat.

Currently, about 50 to 60 percent of the 500 institutions Aramark serves are expected to get rid of trays. Other food service companies such as Sodexo, which serves 600 colleges, expect the same, according to an AP report.

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