"Trayless" Dining Halls Save Both Food And Energy

A recent follow-up study involving American University's dining halls demonstrates that removing trays causes a notable drop in both energy costs and food waste.

"Trayless" Dining Halls Save Both Food And Energy

What's the Latest Development?


A paper recently published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition follows up on a 2009 study done at American University (AU) that involved making dining hall trays selectively available during lunch and dinner. The original study documented a 32 percent drop in food waste and a 27 percent reduction in dish use, and led to the university eliminating trays entirely. In the current paper, co-author Kiho Kim notes that the removal of trays "reduced food waste by 12,000 kg (26,455 pounds) per semester."

What's the Big Idea?

Kim led the 2009 study, which was done after a separate study performed by AU's food service provider failed to achieve the desired outcome. In his study, a student-led public relations campaign was created, making the community aware of the sustainability implications of going "trayless." Consequently, AU administrators approved the policy almost immediately after students presented their findings. Kim was impressed by the quick turnaround: "That link between carrying out scientific studies, making policy recommendations, and those recommendations being accepted so quickly was very gratifying to the students."

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