Dining notes savings by going trayless

March 3, 2010, 1:06 a.m.

To carry a tray or not to carry a tray?

Stanford Dining has had students in Stern and Wilbur dining halls asking themselves that question ever since it implemented a trayless dining initiative fall quarter. While trays are still available, students must request them, causing many to think twice.

But now that the year is halfway done, the new question is just how effective the initiative — started after a survey of 500 students indicated positive support — has been.

According to Executive Director of Stanford Dining Eric Montell, extensive testing at other universities reveals that a tray requires approximately 1/3 of a gallon of water to wash. He estimates that Stanford Dining is able to save approximately several hundred gallons of water every day, assuming a modest 20 percent reduction in tray use over baseline usage in Stern and Wilbur.

“We’ve been quite pleased with the results so far,” Montell wrote in an e-mail to The Daily. “Our observational data would suggest that the number of students dining without a tray correlates fairly well to the percentage of surveyed students who responded favorably to the initiative, which was among our measures of success.”

“Unfortunately, neither Stern nor Wilbur have individual water meters, which makes an exact calculation of water savings difficult to quantify,” Montell added.

As for food waste, assuming the same 20-percent reduction in tray use, Montell hopes for a decrease of 30,000 pounds over the 2009-10 academic year.

Dining will decide at the end of the year whether or not to continue with its trayless efforts. Stanford Dining has also been working with students and faculty to use the new trayless program as a class project in order to better understand how its effectiveness can be improved, according to Montell.

For some students, the switch to trayless has been a fairly painless transition.

“For me, it was pretty easy adapting to just having one plate and bringing in my food,” said Bobby Pinero ’10.

Although he has used trays for the past three years, Pinero had almost no problems giving them up.

“The only thing that’s annoying is going back and forth,” he said. “There have definitely been some traffic issues, but I think it’s been pretty easy for most people.”

However, Pinero is skeptical of how environmentally effective the initiative has been.

“I don’t know what kind of difference it’s actually making, but I think it definitely helps cut down on people overeating or wasting food,” he said. “It’s definitely helped me cut down on waste, which is probably helping them provide less food, but I don’t know if I actually believe what they’re saying about saving water.”

“I actually think it’s great,” added Kylie Tuosto ’11 on Dining’s initiative. “Regardless of what it’s doing for the environment, it makes me feel really good about myself because I tend to eat a lot less and a lot faster.”

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