Campus dining to lose food trays
The University of Houston and Aramark have started phasing out food trays from campus dining locations in an effort to decrease waste and increase sustainability.
UH Dining Services began exploring the removal of trays in a spring 2008 survey, in which 76 percent of respondents replied they would be in favor of going "tray-less" to reduce waste on campus.
"Based on our initial test during Earth Week last year, we saved 50 percent in food waste at our residential locations," said Operations Director of UH Dining Services Geoffrey Herbert.
Removing trays has the potential to save the University in water, dish detergent and sanitizer consumed in cleaning the trays and energy used in heating the water, as well as reducing the amount of food waste on campus, she said.
"Students won’t overload their plates and may consume fewer calories, helping keep off unhealthy pounds. If a student wants more to eat, they can go back as many times as they want," Herbert said.
The removal of trays will help UH balance monetary needs, saving in food costs and utilities, as well keeping them from absorbing the cost of replacing damaged trays. Herbert said the exact monetary impact is unknown, but two universities that implemented the same policy, the University of Maine at Farmington and Grand Valley State University, reported savings of $57,000 and $79,000 annually, respectively.
Students dining at the University Center Satellite on Tuesday had varied reactions to the initiative.
"I’m not sure how much of a difference it’ll make," engineering sophomore Ricky Pham said. "Maybe every little thing helps, but I think there’s more that we can do."
University Studies freshman Chris Nguyen said he supported such steps.
"I don’t use the trays and I think everyone else can manage without them, too. If this is for a good cause, I’m for it," Nguyen said.
The removal of trays is one "green" initiative among others UH plans to introduce in the near future. Students in residential living will have the opportunity to participate in a recycling promotion this fall, complete with a party Sept. 9 to announce the new recycling efforts. UH Dining Services is also in the process of eliminating the use of Styrofoam, using more environmentally friendly chemicals and offering recyclable napkins.
While UH continues to evaluate the effectiveness of the tray-less initiative, students who wish for a tray will be able to request one from servers.