Forbesians forgo trays in experimental dinner
Students eating at the Forbes dining hall last night experimented with trayless dining, a system that the environmental group Greening Princeton says could save both energy and water. In conjunction with Dining Services, the college decided to forego the use of trays at dinner, marking the first trial run of an initiative aimed at reducing food and water waste.
“I’ve been surprised at how well it’s been going,” said Carol Dreibelbis ’11, a Greening Princeton officer who helped organize the event. “We’re also going to measure the waste and compare it to another day with the same menu.”
Greening Princeton members who piloted the University’s trayless dining initiative have said that eliminating trays could reduce food waste by 30 percent. Getting rid of trays may also alleviate logicial problems at Mathey, Rockefeller and Whitman colleges, Director of Dining Services Stu Orefice said in an e-mail.
Those colleges "have several challenges with respect to the design of the current tray belts," he said. "These 'band' systems do not provide the flexibility to transport a plate into the dish washing area."
Greening Princeton co-president Brooks Barron ’11 said he was encouraged by the reactions of students at Forbes last night.
“We’ve gotten a positive response and are happy about it,” Barron said. Members of Greening Princeton were present at the dinner to collect student opinions about the event.
Of the 117 respondents to Greening Princeton’s survey, 96 students, or 82 percent, said they were in favor of trayless dining, Barron added.
Some students, however, said they were unhappy about the change.
“It’s a hassle, and it’s really annoying,” Peter Breen ’12 said. “It’s just a complicated balancing act.”
Students typically used to carrying two or three plates into the dining area simultaneously no longer had that convenience.
“The plates were annoying because you can only hold … three at a time,” Sida Huang ’12 said.
Forbes did, however, give its diners disposable plastic cups that were much larger than the glasses that are normally provided.
“The big cups were good because they could hold enough drink,” Huang added.
Other students acknowledged that the move is important for environmental reasons and suggested that the abrupt change to the new system for one meal partly contributed to the negative sentiment toward it.
“Environmentally, I see why it’s good,” Spencer Jones ’12 said. “It’s just an inconvenience, but with time, it could grow on me.”
Arielle Sandor ’12 also said she thought the environmental benefits outweighed the trouble of dining trayless.
“Balancing the soup bowl and finding the silverware was slightly challenging but if it reduces food waste, I’m there,” Sandor said.
Most eating clubs already have a policy of trayless dining, in fact. Carrying multiple plates and glasses at the clubs does not appear to have dissuaded students from joining, as eating clubs continue to enlist the majority of upperclassmen.
“Many other colleges and eating clubs are doing it,” Christian Rolon ’11 said. “It’s a simple way to reduce waste … with food, and it’s not a sacrifice.”
Many schools, including several in the Ivy League, have already successfully implemented the trayless policy.
Brown decided to eliminate trays in October 2008, and Brown Dining Services Director of Administration Ann Hoffman reported in January that the university has reduced its weekly water use by 4,800 gallons since it made the switch.
In February 2008, Harvard experimented with a “Trayless Thursdays” program in one of its residential dining halls. The month-long program led to a 22 percent decrease in average waste per tray, Harvard University Dining Services spokeswoman Crista Martin said in an interview with The Harvard Crimson in March 2008. Though the initiative was shown to reduce waste, administrators terminated it in March, according to the Crimson.
There will be another trial run for trayless dining in Forbes on April 22 before the fate of trayless dining at Princeton is decided.
An earlier version of this article stated the tray conveyor belts are ill-equipped to maneuver trays into the dish washing area. In fact, they are ill-equipped to maneuver plates.