Okay students: Imagine you’ve just stepped in line at the school cafeteria. You grab a small dish of salad or a bowl of soup, along with a plate of spaghetti and maybe a cookie for desert. Then you reach for your silverware and realize: Oops, you forgot to grab a tray! So you’re stuck carrying all that food to a table by hand. It sounds like a recipe for one big food accident, but according to MSNBC, it’s a scene you’ll be seeing more and more in colleges these days. In fact, more than 500 campuses have already made the switch to trayless cafeterias and hundreds more are considering it.
Why? First of all, it saves water – because there are fewer loads to run through a dishwasher. In fact, officials at Georgia Tech report saving about 3,000 gallons of water per day ever since they stopped using trays. The savings are huge even at small schools. For example, the University of Maine at Farmington – which enrolls only 2,000 students – has saved nearly 300,000 gallons of water since going trayless last year! In other words, the easiest way for a school to “go green” is to get rid of cafeteria trays.
There’s another benefit to chucking trays. Advocates say that if students can’t pile a tray full of extra food, they’ll eat less! Of course, hungry students can still go back for 2nd and 3rd helpings if they like, but food service officials say they’ve already seen food consumption drop 30% in schools that no longer use trays. As you’d expect, the reviews for trayless cafeterias are mixed among students. Most approve of the energy savings. However, one student interviewed by MSNBC thought it was “kind of ridiculous” to expect people to balance their food precariously on notebooks, or in their hands, instead of a sturdy plastic tray. That may explain one unwelcome side effect to schools going trayless. Officials at Glenville State College in West Virginia say they’ve had to stock up on more plates and cups this year – due to all the extra broken dishes they’ve had to deal with.