Greening the School Cafeteria

Electric cars, Going green, Green kids, Peachy — By Stephanie on May 21, 2009 at 6:13 am
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Greening the School Cafeteria

Greening the school cafeteria is not only a wise budget decision for colleges and other institutions, but it can help preserve environmental resources too.  In a New York Times News Service article published this week, a recent trend for colleges going green is to get rid of cafeteria trays.

Of the 300 U.S. colleges that are tracked for “green practices” by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, 126 have banned or curtailed the use of cafeteria trays in their dining halls.  The most direct environmental benefit is the ability to use significantly less water when cleaning up after the diners.  Thousands of gallons are wasted each year, at each institution, when used to wash dirty trays.  And, just think of the energy required to power the dishwashers and heat the water to clean the trays!

But the most directly obvious benefit that schools have seen is less wasted food – as well as trimmer students.  Without a cafeteria tray to load up, diners are more likely to take only what they will eat.  Plus, the absence of a tray makes it feel more like a “home” meal, rather than an institutional one.  In short, its easier to eat green when you have a dinner-sized plate, as opposed a tray that can fit an entire day’s worth of calories.

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Colleges going green are avoiding cafeteria trays

Colleges that have gone tray-less have reported a significant drop in the amount of food that is tossed in the garbage, which has added to the cost and environmental savings.  Purchasing fewer ingredients has a positive upward effect – less food is trucked in, and over time, that results in fewer CO2 emissions.  And, when students eat more of what’s on their plate, garbage cans are not filled as often, minimizing the schools’ carbon footprints (of course, I would suggest that school-wide compost bins are set up, as well as community gardens to grow food on campus).

Ironically, the faculty at many schools are not setting a good example!  The biggest complaints from colleges that are greening the school cafeteria come from professors and assistants.

I guess we’ll just have to let the Millennials show them the way this time!

What do you think about the idea to get rid of cafeteria trays?

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