FAQs – Going Trayless

Frequently asked questions about going trayless

Why are Tufts’ Dining Centers trayless?

  • Trayless dining reduces food waste, conserves electricity and water, and decreases the need for cleaning chemicals.
  • Trayless dining furthers Tufts’ mission to reduce our environmental impact.
  • The trayless campaign is a result of a committed group of Tufts’ students working to create positive change in our campus community.

What are the environmental impact benefits?

  • 30% reduction in food waste (during the Spring 2010 2-week pilot program)
  • 7.5% electricity reduction from conveying and washing trays (during the Spring 2010 two week pilot program). Projected over a month, that’s enough electricity saved to power one Massachusetts home for almost a year!
  • Increased environmental awareness since the high visibility of trayless dining may cause each of us to look at how our own actions affect the environment

If Tufts Dining is saving money and resources, where is the saved money going?

  • Based on the spring ‘10 pilot program, Tufts Dining anticipates saving $47,650 on electricity and $3,800 on compost, which works out to about $12.87 per meal plan holder.
  • To convert to trayless, Tufts Dining had to make the following expenditures:
    • Shelves for the dish return area: $4,770
    • Purchase of larger cups, which were requested by students, and the racks and transport dollies to accommodate them: $2,918
    • Additional personnel to keep up with dining area cleaning: $38,300

Who supports going trayless?

  • The Student Body
    • Surveys during winter ‘10 conducted by both the TCU Senate and Tufts Dining found almost 2/3 of students to be in support of or neutral toward the idea of trayless dining.
    • Surveys at the end of the spring ’10 Trayless Pilot Program showed 80.9% of Carmichael diners to be in support of or neutral to the idea.
  • The Administration
    • Tufts Dining, Tufts Office of Sustainability, Tufts Institute of the Environment and Tufts Experimental College
    • Larry Bacow, President of Tufts University, wrote in an e-mail to the Trayless Campaign organizers, “Congratulations to Team Trayless on this initiative. What a great way to save calories and resources for the environment. I hope everyone will support this effort.”

Does the removal of trays put a strain on Tufts Dining workers?

  • No. Fewer trays to wash means less work to be done in the dish room.
  • During the pilot period, the managers of Carmichael reported no major complaints from student workers.

Aren’t there bigger environmental issues to address? Going trayless seems to make a very small impact.

  • Relatively speaking, yes, but it’s a “low-hanging fruit.” It’s easy to implement.
  • It doesn’t require large retrofits or demand a huge change from students.
  • It creates a real, achievable, positive and measurable impact to our environment.

What will happen to the trays?

  • Trays will continue to be available to those with mobility challenges or other special circumstances.
  • Trays might reappear around the first snow of the year.

What prompted the decision to go trayless?

  • The decision to go trayless has been two years in the making. Tufts Dining observed peer institutions across the country and waited until there was enough student interest in the topic to thoughtfully explore the potential of trayless, then begin to test and evaluate the program amongst the students, dining workers and administration.

Are other schools going trayless?

  • Yes, Tufts was behind the curve of the growing trend toward trayless dining across the country. In 2010, of the 332 schools rated, 233 had some type of trayless dining program.
  • Other schools with full or partial trayless dining programs include:
    • Bentley, Bowdoin, Brown, Colby, Columbia, Connecticut College, Cornell, Emory, Middlebury, Northwestern, Pomona, RIT, Skidmore, Trinity, UC Berkeley, University of Connecticut, UCLA, University of Pennsylvania, University of Vermont, and Williams

What else can I do to make environmentally sustainable choices about my food?

  • There are plenty of actions you can take to decrease your carbon footprint in the dining halls, including:
    • Avoid wasting food – Take all you want, but eat all you take.
    • Clean up after yourself – Less frequent cleaning means less water used and fewer cleaning chemicals needed.
    • Bring your own water bottle to avoid using cups.
    • Reduce meat consumption. Even one day of meatless dining will reduce animal waste, water pollution, and green-house gases and help prevent rainforest destruction! For more information check out thedailygreen website.
  • For more information and other ways to go about making sustainable dining choices, visit the feast (Food Education and Action for Sustainability at Tufts).