Roughly half a year after Driscoll Dining Hall first adopted its Trayless Thursday policy, both indignant diners and food waste have subsided. “There are students on campus who love the fact that were taking this initiative,” said Gayle Donohue, unit manager of Driscoll, noting that last year’s strongly mixed response has significantly diminished.
The policy, an environmental initiative that began making weekly appearances last March and quickly evolved into a full-time scheme, appears to have gained acceptance even among initially unhappy students. “Because I’m the type of cafeteria-goer who takes a lot of plates, I was frustrated with traylessness last year,” said Monel Chang ’11. “However, since I’ve had a substantial exposure to it, it’s now become a part of my routine.”
The main objective behind forgoing trays was decreasing food and water waste, particularly given soaring food prices. According to Donahue, savings are notable although specific numbers are not currently available. “We have seen a reduction, particularly in beverage waste,” she said. “Also, we can visually see that food waste is down.”
Another important effect of going trayless is alleviating the burden of washing 4,000 trays a week. “I truly think it’s been beneficial for my staff,” Donohue said.
Donohue added that in an effort to improve efficiency, more food has been placed out in the dining room itself, which now has a panini grill and a chef’s station, in addition to service ware in various locations in the room.
Driscoll is also looking for other ways to improve sustainability, such as using different lighting, lower water pressure and holding occasional “dining in the dark” events. “We are committed to going green, and we plan on introducing more changes in the future,” Donohue said.
Nationwide, trayless college dining continues to increase in popularity. Dining Services’ adoption of trayless dining was first inspired by the success at peer institutions, such as Dartmouth College, which reported having reduced food waste by 50 percent. “Other colleges have been calling us to see how it is progressing,” Donohue said, noting that she has talked to a range of other institutions, including Boston University and the University of Texas.
However, this trend has yet to gain momentum across campus. The only tangible change has been in Dodd, where students are encouraged to forgo trays. “I don’t really see a lot of students using trays at meals,” said Teresa McLain, a prep and service attendant at Dodd.
While some point to the size of the Mission and Greylock Dining Halls as an encumbrance to going trayless, others are strong advocates. “Without trays the dining experience feels less institutional,” said Marian Deuker ’11.