Taking out the trays

Waste not, want not.

Baldwin is considering the idea of joining nearly 600 colleges and universities nationwide that have gone trayless in their cafeterias as a way to reduce food waste.

“We decided to look into this as a way to be proactive,” said Todd Tekiele, director of dining services. “Mostly because of eco-friendliness and sustainability but also because of energy savings, cutting back on food waste and for the potential health benefits to students, which come from (eating) less food.”

On Feb. 24, students were required to give their trays to a Baldwin worker who then weighed the amount of food and beverage waste. From 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., approximately 700 pounds of half-sandwiches and unfinished glasses of Pepsi and other beverages were trashed in Lower Baldwin alone, according to Tekiele.

A week later, students got their first taste of trayless cafeteria life. Again, plates and glasses were given to a Baldwin worker or student volunteer who weighed the waste. This time 536 pounds came to rest at the bottom of a trash bag.

Tekiele estimates that Baldwin could save 35,759 pounds of food waste and 65,016 gallons of water in a year if they went trayless.

“The experiment went well,” Tekiele said. “I was pleased that we had very few complaints, and most students seemed to understand and appreciate the purpose of the experiment.”

The experiment wasn’t received with open arms from all students, however.

“I hated it,” said Angel Ingram, Southfield senior. “I can only carry so much in my hands.”

James McRae, Clinton sophomore, understood the health benefits Tekiele envisioned coming from the trayless experiment.

“It encouraged me to eat a little less, which isn’t a bad thing,” McRae said. “And if there really is a net savings on water, then it would be something I’d be willing to live with.”

The experiment is the brainchild of Bekah McCafferty, Portland senior. As a member of both Albion’s sustainability council and the student food commission, McCafferty saw the potential environmental impact first.

“When we approached Todd about this, it wasn’t about cost savings at all,” McCafferty said. “It was about how to make Baldwin more eco-friendly. It’s just a simple thing for Baldwin to do, and it’s something that a lot of colleges have started to do.”

Michigan State, University of Michigan, Western and Central have all instituted some form of a trayless cafeteria experience. According to Tekiele, Olivet College has instituted a “trayless Tuesday.”

Regardless of Tekiele’s perception of the experiment’s success, don’t expect the trays to disappear from Baldwin any time soon.

“It may not even be feasible for us to go trayless full time,” Tekiele said. “It would take some investing in just the physical equipment that we have.”

According to Tekiele, specific plans for the future have yet to be determined.

About Holly Setter 11 Articles
Holly Setter is the online editor. She is a senior, majoring in English and political science, with a minor in journalism and a concentration in public policy. Holly can be reached at hs12 [at] albion [dot] edu.

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