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Student waste reduction initiatives

Reusable Mug Campaign

In the winter of 2014 Students Organized for the Protection of the Environment (SOPE) launched a campaign to remove paper cups from the dining halls and replace them with reusable mugs. They worked with CSA to pass a ballot initiative that would provide $8500 of funding for the new mug program. A super majority of students voted for the proposal.

Why the Mugs campaign?

Prior to the implementation of the mug program in fall of 2014, Carleton students used roughly 6,000 paper cups per week according to our dining hall provider Bon Appétit. This was both costly and wasteful. SOPE chose this initiative as a challenge to our culture of convenience; paper cups have a long production path, from tree, to pulp to manufacture, and then once they are used to the compost or landfill. This seems like an awful lot of work for just 15 minutes of use.

Trayless Campaign

Why Trayless?

Dining services around the country have either stopped using or decreased the use of dining hall trays. Having trays significantly increases the use of water and detergent and leads to large quantities of food waste. Additionally, going trayless promotes student awareness about food consumption and the impact of food waste on the environment. A study conducted by foodservice company ARAMARK in 2008 found that removing trays from dining halls reduced waste by 25-30%, and a survey found that 75% of students, faculty, and staff said they would accept removal of trays. Going trayless is a small behavioral change that initially may seem daunting, but quickly becomes routine and allows students to see how easy it is to have a significant impact on their environmental footprint.

Trayless at Carleton

In September 2011, Sustainability Assistants met with Bon Appetit and proceeded to collect 500 signatures for a petition to begin a Trayless Tuesdays pilot program. They also worked with the CSA Senate to pass a resolution to approve the pilot program. Trayless Tuesdays were up and running by October 2010, with dining hall staff removing trays from the LDC every Tuesday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Diners were educated via informational posters, table tents, and emails, and food waste was measured on trayless and non-trayless days. Removing trays from the dining hall reduced food waste by about 21% - less than an ounce per person, but almost 80 pounds total per day!

Trayless Tuesdays continued through winter and spring 2011, and a survey of randomly selected diners in the winter found that a majority of respondents were supportive of, neutral about, or did not oppose both continuing Trayless Tuesdays and beginning to go trayless every day (90% for Trayless Tuesdays, and 70% for trayless every day). After discussions with stakeholders among faculty, staff, and administration, the Sustainability Assistants passed another CSA resolution, this time to begin full-time trayless dining in the LDC in fall 2011.

The LDC has been successfully trayless since fall 2011; Burton’s conveyor belt system makes it impossible to remove trays completely, but staff have noticed more diners going voluntarily trayless in Burton since the LDC went trayless. Trays are always available by request in the LDC, and Bon Appetit and the Sustainability Assistants welcome comments or questions.