Trayless Dining at Los Olivos Helps University's Green Initiative

Trayless Dining at Los Olivos Helps University's Green Initiative
Students carry plates of food at Los Olivos Dining Commons.
Eliminating the trays makes it easier for students to not overeat.
Trayless dining is part of the campus' climate commitment.

Save paper, save a tree. Save a tray, save water and reduce waste.

Following the university's commitment to go green, Los Olivos has been enforcing trayless dining since the beginning of the fall quarter. Since then, the dining commons has seen a tremendous decrease in food waste and its use of power and water. As an added bonus, students have been challenged to avoid the habit of overeating in a buffet-style setting.

Now, students have to carry plates and cups one at a time.  

“We want students to get away from the tradition of carrying trays because they tend to load up their trays with too many plates,” says Narayanan Ramani, operations manager for Los Olivos.

Ramani adds that students are trained to pick up a tray each time they dine at Los Olivos and that the trayless initiative contributes to improved portion control.

“Trayless dining has a lot of benefits because it doesn't force me to get more plates to put more food on,” says Janeth Mendosa, a third-year biology student.

Electrical engineering student Allen Huang adds: “I think trayless dining is a good idea because now I have more control over how much I eat.”

Ramani estimates that the elimination of trays saves about 125 pounds of food waste and 10,000 gallons of water on a daily basis. Conserving 10,000 gallons of water a day translates into a savings of around $1,700 a month.

The idea for getting rid of the trays was first proposed during spring quarter 2008. Los Olivos conducted a survey and found that 55 percent of participants favored trayless dining. Focus groups also were held with resident advisors, University Housing Services and Los Olivos staff for three months. The initiative was tested during the summer before its official launch in the fall.