The Benefits of a Trayless Commons

Written by Hannah Richard

After undergoing a trial run for possibly going trayless, Southwestern students have been in daze over what to think. Numerous Facebook groups have been established bashing and championing the trayless trial period, and many groups on campus have been discussing the pros and cons of this new idea.

It seems to me that there are much more supporters than there appear to be opposition to the proposed plan. I have to agree with supporters in that this would make for great change in the Commons.

The reasons for going trayless are so immense, I barely know where to start. First of all, without trays, The Commons has way fewer dishes and dishwashing cycles to do. This means using a lot less water and harmful dishwashing liquids, along with saving energy from fewer times using the dishwasher. This alone can save thousands of gallons of water every day.
Decreasing tray usage can also substantially diminish food waste by encouraging people to only take the amount of food they can carry, rather than what they think looks good.

Everyday huge amounts of food are thrown away because people take large portions that they can’t or don’t want to finish. By not having trays to place piles and piles of food, students can try to properly manage what they want to pick up to eat.
If people want to get more food, they can get up and go get another plate. If they are too lazy and don’t want to walk the twenty feet to retrieve more food, then they really didn’t want the food – and waste has been reduced.
This plan can even possibly serve as a healthy way to stop people from overeating. If you don’t get up to go get that second helping of chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, you’re just helping your body by consuming fewer calories. Heck, while walking the extra few steps to get the second helping you might even burn a few calories.

If the Southwestern community uses less detergent, throws out less solid waste and grease, the Georgetown community’s water supply can also benefit. Food materials discharge to local waste water treatment plants contribute to increased levels of oil and grease, biological oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD) and total suspended solids (TSS). The food materials which are discarded into the solid waste stream can contribute to odor, methane generation at disposal facilities and increased BOD and COD levels in local landfills.

If being environmentally friendly, reducing food waste and helping out our community isn’t enough for you, then consider the amount of money all of this could save. The effect alone of decreasing electrical, chemical and water usage could save hundreds of dollars. Projected savings could range in the thousands of dollars. The money we save can be put toward increasing options at the Commons and providing a more detailed menu.

Along with better options, the Commons stay can use the cash to improve the overall quality of the food. If there are any objections to this, I don’t know what to say. So many people whine and complain about the food in the Commons, when really it isn’t that bad. If you don’t like the food, support going trayless or go off campus when you get hungry.

Lastly, I feel that many people find inconvenience to be the biggest problem with going trayless. This is completely absurd. Having to carry more than one plate at a time isn’t that hard. Take the time and effort to set your plate down at your seat and go back for whatever else you want to eat. Students are so used to the luxury of having a tray to nicely place everything on, the inconvenience seems bigger than it really is.

Transitioning to a fully trayless campus may take Southwestern a while, but the transition will be well worth it. The trial run has definitely made students more environmentally conscious and created a lot of effective dialogue between students and the administration. To better transition to trayless, I propose that the Commons should keep trays out, but in a different location so that they are not right where you walk in. This way people don’t have to feel like they must take a tray; you never have to take a tray. Also, the Commons could try trayless days of the week like Trayless Tuesdays and Thursdays. Anything that can help make Southwestern more sustainable is a great idea to me!

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