Text Size Default Text SizeDefault Text Size Large Text SizeLarge Text Size Largest Text SizeLargest Text Size Print Print this Page

2008 News Releases

Longwood adopts trayless dining in sustainability effort

September 3, 2008

Students eating at the dining hall without trays in a sustainability effort Trayless dining reduces food waste, conserves water and energy (used to wash trays), and reduces the university’s overall carbon footprint.

Longwood University's sustainability effort now includes a trayless dining hall.

The move will reduce food waste, conserve the water, chemicals and energy used to wash trays, and reduce the university's carbon footprint. It was announced Aug. 15 by Longwood President Patricia Cormier in her annual "welcome back" speech to faculty and staff, then punctuated when she tossed a tray into the trash can. Dining service officials had asked students beginning in the fall of 2007 to give up trays in Dorrill Dining Hall on a voluntary basis, whichwent remarkably well.

"I haven't heard a peep from the students about this, and I doubt I will," said Grant Avent, director of Longwood Dining Services. "The students have bought into this and are really behind it."

Longwood dining officials were pleased that some 81 percent of students, which is higher than the national average, supported trayless dining in a survey last spring, and also that it was endorsed by Dr. Cormier.Among ARAMARK's nine higher education accounts in Virginia, only Longwood and three other colleges and universities have gone completely trayless.Despite the switch, trays will still be available for anyone who is physically challenged. 

Even the old dining trays will be part of Longwood's sustainability campaign. The trays are being sold for a minimum $1 donation that will go to a sustainability-related charity. Longwood Dining Services is working with student leaders and will let the student body choose an appropriate charity.

"Longwood is our only school in Virginia that has taken trayless dining one step further and decided to sell its trays and donate the proceeds to a charity related to sustainability," said Sherri Flanigan, associate regional marketing director for ARAMARK Higher Education Dining Services.

Some 1,000 trays are available for purchase. The trays bear the university logo and the inscription "Longwood College Dining Services," with the university's former designation, which dining officials think might make them appealing to alumni, many of whom are more familiar with the older designation.

Last year Avent discussed going trayless with Dr. Tim Pierson, vice president for student affairs, and then with resident assistants (students) and residence education coordinators (Student Affairs staff members). "This just spread to the students, and a lot of them quit carrying trays last year," Avent said. "Then when we presented the idea to Dr. Cormier in May 2008, she said 'Let's do it.'"

Flanigan praised the way in which Longwood Dining Services prepared for trayless dining and also the way in which the Longwood community responded. "There was no hesitation on the part of RAs, and there was overwhelming support across campus," she said. "This wasn't a forced effort but rather was an attempt to gauge the overall campus temperature. This campus has been atypical in its due diligence in the past year."

In November 2007 Longwood Dining Services measured the amount of food wasted during a one-week period. The results showed that a total of 1,399 pounds of food was wasted every day, which, based on an average cost of $1.03 per pound of food, amounted to $1,441 per day. An average of .35 of a pound of food was wasted per customer.

"We're going to measure the effect on food waste again this November, and I know we'll see a difference," Avent said. "We can already see a difference."

ARAMARK, a nationwide company, conducted a study in the spring of 2008 that measured food waste from more than 186,000 meals served at 25 colleges and universities during the 2008 academic year. The study found that removing trays reduced food waste by 25 to 30 percent.

In announcing trayless dining, Dr. Cormier listed its benefits beyond reducing food waste. "It conserves energy by eliminating the need to heat water for tray washing, reduces dependence on fossil fuels, saves one-third to one-half gallon of water per tray, reduces chemicals, detergents and drying agents used to wash trays, decreases discharge into landfills, incinerators and wastewater treatment facilities, and lessens the ecological footprint," she said. "This is a win-win for all of us – it saves food, saves money, and helps save the environment."