Go green, go trayless

by Beacon Staff • February 20, 2008

We should be excited that Emerson has made the decision to get greener. Washing hundreds of trays every day requires a lot of water and energy, not to mention chemicals necessary for cleaning and sanitizing purposes.,In about one week, Emerson College's Dining Hall will be going "trayless" for five days. Yes, that means all those convenient but wasteful serving platters will temporarily disappear.

We should be excited that Emerson has made the decision to get greener. Washing hundreds of trays every day requires a lot of water and energy, not to mention chemicals necessary for cleaning and sanitizing purposes. This initiative will save resources and prevent the excess use of harmful substances.

As co-president of Earth Emerson, I hear many complaints about the Dining Hall's wastefulness from environmentally conscious friends, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we weren't the only ones thinking about the issue. Emerson Business Services was aware of the potential for improvement, and they started this project. Earth Emerson is simply endorsing the idea, and facilitating the study in hopes of documenting just how much water, energy and food we can save.

Across the country, many schools have begun to go trayless, including Georgia Tech, Plymouth State University and Colby College.

However, trayless transitions are often resisted by dining hall patrons. Emerson is, unfortunately, no exception. As one of the project's leaders at Emerson, I have experienced discontent first hand.

I received an e-mail from an angry Emersonian, who wrote, "I do not think you know the repercussions of your Earth Day experiment, but you are a person who is not taking into account that you are taking away an essential factor in the dining hall experience here at Emerson College. Taking away the trays ... is a horrible idea."

Thankfully, everyone is opposed to the trayless initiative. Some students realize the enormous financial and environmental benefits of going trayless.

Junior organizational and political communication major Eric Tollar got a head start on Emerson's enviro-friendly change. As a lacrosse player who eats "a lot of food," Tollar seems like the type who would be dissatisfied with the project, but he has actually already gone trayless.

After seeing the fliers around campus, he took it upon himself to start helping the earth. "Well, I figured that if it really did reduce waste then I might as well try," said Tollar, "I mean, it was only a couple of extra trips." The hardest part, he explained, was the "balancing act," but he still thinks of it as a mere inconvenience.

"When most students at Emerson College see that they have to take two trips from their table rather than one," he said, "they will do what Emerson students do best: complain."

These two students are not representative of the school as a whole, of course, and some Emersonians may still be upset about the lack of trays.

But regardless of possible student disappointment, this is an amazing opportunity for Lions to make a small change that could have a big impact. All they have to do is go along with the initiative, because the hard part has already been taken care of by Business Services and Aramark.

Last semester, when Earth Emerson conducted a Food Study, the results showed that our students wasted, on average, ten gallons of food per hour during dinnertime. That's a lot of excess-we can do better than that!

While trays may seem critical to the Dining Hall experience, please take just a moment to reflect on whether they're truly necessary, and if it really isn't worth a little inconvenience to aid a seriously ailing planet.