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April 23, 2009

Schulze goes trayless, aids the environment

One less tray, another large step for the environment.

The University of Louisiana at Monroe’s Schulze Dining Hall recognized the wisdom in going trayless, all in a quest to aid the environment and simultaneously reduce costs and food and water waste.

ULM joins a growing national movement among colleges and universities to ditch the trays in their cafeterias, with overwhelmingly positive support from students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

Kobus Smith, a ULM graduate student from South Africa pursuing his master’s in exercise science, said, “ … If you look at the bigger picture, by saving food and reducing labor [costs], it’s probably the better thing.”

The results are encouraging. Thanks to a simple lifestyle change, consumption is reduced. Mike Trevathan, coordinator of ULM’s Auxiliary Enterprises, estimates that at least 3,000 gallons of water are conserved daily. This means there are also less polluting detergents requiring breakdown in local water reclamation/treatment plants. Less labor is necessary, there is a reduction in washing costs and the expense of buying more trays is completely eliminated.

According to an Associated Press article titled “US colleges moving to retire cafeteria trays,” “Fifty to 60 percent of Philadelphia-based Aramark's 500 campus partners and 230 of the 600 colleges and universities served by Gaithersburg, Md.-based Sodexo are expected to dump their trays, company officials said.

“Aramark conducted a study of 92,000 students, faculty and staff at 300 institutions and found that 79 percent indicated they would accept eating off plates instead of trays. Another Aramark study of 186,000 meals served at 25 institutions found that when trays weren't used, food waste per person was reduced 25 percent to 30 percent.”

According to ULM Food Service Director Robert Hoag, this move, which began in the fall of 2008, could result in the potential reduction of 20 tons of food waste each semester. “I think it’s the future, and something we should be concerned about. This is an opportunity for individuals to make a personal difference.”

Darryl Breaux, location manager, agreed. “Nationwide, there’s more of an awareness of humans’ negative effects on the environment. Maybe this movement will influence our students to be more active now and whenever they graduate.”

Going trayless is the latest step taken by ULM Food Services. By utilizing Recycling Services to remove cardboard and office paper, dumpster capacity at Schulze and the Student Union Building has been cut in half, also spelling a connected reduction in service fees.

The ULM Grounds Department takes waste vegetable oil from the cafeterias on campus and converts it into biodiesel fuel for all of the campus diesel tractors and mowers. Also, much of the food service produce is purchased regionally, though the potential exists to grow some on campus.

ULM’s Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications Michael Echols encouraged this kind of environmentally savvy approach. “These ventures have been done quite successfully at other universities, and I applaud the efforts conducted by Robert, Darryl and the Schulze staff.”

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