The dining hall at Lasell College will have no trays today. Where are the trays? They have been removed in an effort to promote awareness of food waste. Food waste in the dining hall is an huge problem. Students in my Global Ecology class estimated that the average Lasell students wastes over 5 ounces of food at lunch.
Environmentally, there are several issues in regards to wasted food. First, the food has to be produced. Think CAFOs, pesticides, fertilizers, transportation, processing, and preparing. All of these represent large sinks of energy and pose other risks to our environment. Second, wasted food has to disposed of. At Lasell, we use a disposal system that uses both energy and large amounts of fresh water. In addition to the environmental impact, food waste also impacts the bottom line. If students wasted less food, more money would be available to offer new and improved foods.
By removing trays, dining services hopes students will think twice about loading up on food they don't plan on eating. If students want more, they simply can walk back into the service area and take a second plate. Other colleges have implemented trayless days and observed as much as a 66% reduction in food waste.
I want to commend Sodexo for taking on this initiative. They are going to receive negative feedback from students. There will be grumbling and complaining but in the end, it will get people talking about the issue. Changing student behavior is extremely challenging and sometimes a pulse, such as removing trays, is needed to spark change.
While many may not be happy by the removal of trays today, several things are certain. Lasell College will produce less waste, use less fresh water, all while saving money. This is one small step towards creating a sustainable community.