Sometime during the afternoon of Thursday, August 25th, Central College Dining Services put away the big trays forever, started up the new (a nice shade of baby blue) dish return conveyer system–not cheap to install– and launched us into “trayless dining” every day, every meal– sort of.
We now have biger 16oz glasses, presumably eliminating the football player’s need for a tray that holds 5 milks in a single go. We also have “mini-trays,” those little brown plastic devils we see when we order-in at fast food joints, big enough to carry our outsized burger, fries and corn-based sweetened dark brown fizzy water. The idea is that people who still feel they need a tray for such items in the dining area can grab and use one.
Because Central students are inovative and always wanting to test the boundaries of any new system, many are now putting their “comfort food” and other soft, mushy items and slabs of meat directly on the little trays. Just like a plate, you can still pile them high, so some of these mini-tray meals amount to culinary works of art that Dagwood Bumstead would be proud of!
So the real question is why? Why did we finally do it now, after two agonizing years of Trayless Tuesdays (that were not really trayless at all) and numerous informational campaigns showing how trayless lowers food waste and saves money (national estimates are upwards of 20% reductions and savings…think about saving 20% of Central’s entire food purchasing and preparing and disposing budget…this has got to be on an annual order of at least tens of thousands of dollars saved, right?), and weighing the food waste, and displaying the food waste, and doing just about everytrhing possible to demonstrate that this was a good sustainable practice to put into placeand to say nothing at all about the water and electricity savings, from fewer trays and dishes to wash (for more information contact the Physics Department)…I’m blathering not blogging now. Why did we do it? Because virtually every other college and university in Iowa already has? Because it was ordered “do-it” from the top? Because a passionate environmentally-oriented alum gave us the $31,000 or so dollars? No. Because it’s the right thing to do, ethically, environmentally, and economically.
Has there been open rebellion? Food fights? Will the dire prediction of a recent Student Body President (made in strained seriousness), come true, that “trayless will so anger and alienate Central students that they will not give money to support the College when they become alums?” No. Food waste is down, way down, probably by at least one-third. That kind of savings pays for the new conveyer belt and those big glasses in less than a year…and after that, it’s all savings.
If we as a community are committed to making Central more sustainable, then this is and must be one of the tiniest, easiest “baby steps” that we could possibly have taken.
What’s next for us?