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Queen's University

Sustainability Office

Student Group Promotes Benefits of Tray-less Dining

January 10, 2011

Students are encouraged to think twice before grabbing a food tray at a campus cafeteria this semester.

"Tray-less dining has the potential to reduce food waste, conserve water and energy, offer health benefits, and provide a higher quality dining experience," says Lauren Long, the sustainability coordinator for the Main Campus Residents' Council (MCRC).

MCRC, working with Hospitality Services and Sodexo, will lead an education campaign this semester. Banners will cover the tray racks informing students of the opportunity to dine without a tray.

"We want to create more options for students interested in reducing cafeteria waste," says Bruce Griffiths, director of Housing and Hospitality Services. "Offering tray-less dining is one part of our sustainability strategy that also includes many initiatives such as composting organic waste and donating leftover food to local shelters."

A "Tray-less Tuesdays" pilot project ran at the West Campus cafeteria from November 2009 to May 2010. Food waste was reduced by an average of 21 per cent when trays were not offered because students took fewer items. Students were generally supportive and gave the program an average rating of 6.6 out of 10.

"We believe tray-less dining will encourage students to 'take what they want, and eat what they take.' As well, the dining experience will be more like at home or a restaurant instead of a hectic cafeteria experience," says Ms Long.

A Sodexo study has shown that 2,000 gallons of water can be saved for 1,000 meals served when trays are not used. The reduction in energy use can mean a savings of 1.8 to 4.4 cents per tray.

Other universities and colleges in Canada and the United States have phased out trays in their cafeterias. Dalhousie University and Carleton University no longer offer trays to students. In the U.S., 150 cafeterias serviced by Sodexo have removed trays. MCRC will look at those examples and suggest ways Queen's could overcome the logistical challenges of removing trays in the future.

The MCRC general assembly has endorsed a full-campus tray-less cafeteria policy, and the initiative has the unanimous support of the Queen's Sustainability Advisory Committee. The MCRC will hold a referendum on the issue in March to gauge students' preference for tray-less dining.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000