Trayless dining helps to decrease energy, water, soap and food waste


Trayless dining catalyzes sustainable dining at AU


This fall, Dining Services and ASA came together to implement trayless dining in an effort to decrease energy, water, soap and food waste. The change was intended to mutually benefit the dining hall’s expenses and the environment.

Although this change may appear to be an inconvenience for students, trayless dining would not have been implemented unless Dining Services was sure that Augustana students were open to it, according to Damien Lewis, general manager of Augustana Dining Services.

ASA representatives on the housing and dining committee are pleased to see trayless dining become a reality. For years, there has been a discussion between ASA and Dining Services regarding this issue.

“You have to be really careful when you’re working in a retail setting, when you have customers that you have to serve,” Lewis said.

Last year ASA circulated a petition informing students about the pros and cons of trayless dining. After receiving around 120 signatures in favor of the move, ASA and Lewis decided to make the change.

“It’s never really the best time [to become trayless], because people are going to see it as a takeaway, but unfortunately that is not how it should be seen,” Lewis said. “It should be seen that we’re doing something good and sustainable.”

Students have noticed the change, and although some aspects may be inconvenient, sophomore Hermela Mulugeta said the spirit of the change was a good one.

“I heard they removed the trays to reduce wasting food,” Mulugeta said. “If that’s the reason and it’s working, then that’s great, and they should continue. It wasn’t a hard transition. It’s something you can easily get used to.”

No trays means more potential exposure to hot plates, something freshman Zawaad Shah sees as a potential drawback.

“I only use trays when the plates are too hot to hold,” Shah said. “If it wasn’t [for] that, I wouldn’t really see a need for trays.”

The current conveyer belt in the dish return area is not meant for trayless dining, leading to pileups of dishes during busy dining hours.

“I’ve noticed in many occasions people just drop their plates … incorrectly onto the conveyer system, and it creates clutter which wouldn’t be a problem if they used trays,” freshman Andrew Villegas said.

Dining Services is not currently planning to install a new dish drop-off system, the costs of which may be prohibitive. It may be under consideration during the dining hall’s next remodel, scheduled for some time in the next five years.

This semester marks the beginning of a waste reduction journey for Augustana, and both Dining Services and ASA have further goals they would like to see accomplished in the near future.

ASA housing and dining committee chair Spencer O’Hara says that more can still be done.

“I think we’re moving slowly in the right direction,” O’Hara said. “We still do have some trays, and I would like to see us go completely trayless.”

They are also looking for ways to maximize food waste reduction by organizing ways to create compost out of the dining hall’s leftovers.

Dining Services not only wants to continue trayless dining, but it is also looking for ways to get fresher ingredients, such as inserting an Urban Cultivator (the tall white box next to the tray drop-off) in the dining hall.

“We would like to put in our own full garden, so that we can grow a lot of our own produce, when the weather allows of course,” Mr. Lewis said. “We would love to be able to do that, and we’re figuring out a way.”

For the student and faculty who still prefer trays, there’s still a stack located by the dish return waiting to be utilized.

“We don’t tell them, ‘No, you can’t have a tray,’ it’s their choice if they want it, but we see students making the choice to go trayless every day,” Mr. Lewis said. “It’s the little thing we can do day-to-day to help save our resources and the earth.”

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