For my green grant, I propose that the dining halls get rid of the trays used to carry food. Eliminating trays from the dining halls would lower energy and water use. At Union, the trays are not used by all the students, but more so to bring the dirty plates, cups, and utensils into the dish room. If we eliminated the trays from this process and just had a rotating conveyer belt system, then less water would be used cleaning the trays. Additionally, there would also be fewer plates to clean. This experiment was done at Georgia Tech and for the 18,000 student body, they save 3,000 gallons of water each day. Additionally, when students do not have trays to carry their food, they can only take what they can hold reducing the overall food waste. Another study was done in New York that showed that without trays the school saved a total of 25 pounds of waste each meal. This is because students have less space to carry the food to their area so they can take only what they need. At RIT, last summer they removed trays and they saw less food waste and the school saved 10% of food spending. Overall, taking away trays and finding a new system for Union students to transport their waste to the dish room would have several benefits.
Lately the topic of excess garbage, including food waste, has been a hot topic in the news because the destructive effects of excess waste are starting to affect health and safety of people. Excess waste has always been affecting our health and safety but until now the effects have not been so obvious. Excess waste causes air pollution, respiratory diseases, contamination of surface and ground waters and increased bacteria, insects and vermin urban centers. To help alleviate some of the stress on our environment caused by excess waste, I propose that each first year student receives a custom Union Tupperware container. This way the students can use the containers in Reamer for various food options; Rathskeller takeout; and in the dining halls so as to reduce the amount of to-go cups used as makeshift takeout containers. A typical square generic “Tupperware” container costs ~$1.00 so for an incoming class of ~700 students this would call for a grant of ~$750 for custom Tupperware containers. The waste we would be avoiding if this grant were to be granted would far out-cost the cost of the containers. Perhaps dining services could have some kind of program or contest once a term that incorporates the containers and when they hold their “pop-up” events, students should only be served if they have their reusable containers. Perhaps this would also encourage students to purchase more reusable containers and use less one-use containers!