West Dining Commons To Go Trayless For Earth Week Beginning April 17

The Penn State Student Sustainability Advisory Council (SSAC) is set to sponsor a trayless dining initiative at West Dining Commons from Monday, April 17, to Friday, April 21, in celebration of Earth Week.

This environmentally conscious effort encourages the concept of “only take what you can eat” to reduce food waste, conserve water, and minimize carbon footprint.

The use of trays in dining halls often leads to students taking multiple plates and selecting more food than they can consume. By removing trays, the dining hall fosters a mindful approach, encouraging students to use a single plate at a time, which may limit the food they take.

The SSAC’s campaign is inspired by benchmarks comparing Penn State to other Big Ten universities in terms of sustainability practices.

“The best indicator we have is the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System) report, which compares various sustainability factors against other Big Ten universities… Other schools have successfully implemented this, so why can’t we?,” Isabella Ferreira, an earth science and policy major in the SSAC, explained.

Several Big Ten schools, including Ohio State, Maryland, and Rutgers, have already adopted trayless dining programs, some of which have been in place for years.

In 2012, Michigan launched a “tray-light” program that reduced the number of trays in dining facilities and promoted the same campaign concept, enabling students to make informed decisions about food waste.

To adopt a similar program, investments in new conveyor belts and durable dishware would be necessary. Currently, most of Penn State’s dining halls rely on trays to transport used dishes back to the kitchen.

“At the end of the semester, we will present all of our information to Penn State’s higher administration in hopes that they will consider implementing our proposal,” Alyssa Loscig, a member of the SSAC Zero Waste Committee, said.

In 2018, Penn State generated a waste footprint of 19,000 tons, indicating a significant opportunity for improvement. Last month, there were 1,945.2 pounds of food waste in West Dining Commons, too.

Visitors are encouraged to complete an anonymous survey about their experience eating at West Dining Commons during Earth Week.

“The biggest thing the stakeholders said when we met with them is that they need to see student support,” Ferreira said. “We’re trying to gather as much data as possible from the survey.”

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About the Author

Theo Koch

Theo is a sophomore at Penn State majoring in marketing. He is from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Both of his parents attended Penn State, so he was born into this. He enjoys watching all sports, outdoor activities, and spending time with family and friends. Feel free to reach out to [email protected] with any comments, questions, or concerns.

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