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Balancing act: Dining at UW-Whitewater gone trayless

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Kayla Bunge
February 15, 2009
— UW-Whitewater Students are learning to balance plates, bowls, cups, utensils and napkins in their hands, in the crooks of their arms or on top of books.

Something familiar is missing from the dining facilities on campus—plastic cafeteria trays.


In an effort to cut water and energy consumption, Chartwells, the dining service provider at UW-Whitewater, has stopped offering trays at Esker Dining Hall, Drumlin Market and the eateries in the James R. Connor University Center, said Ann Wick, marketing director for the dining service provider.


“Students—in particular from what I’ve seen in the last couple years on campus—are looking for ways to make a difference,” she said.


Chartwells began going green last semester with Trayless Tuesdays. Trays were offered only upon request one day each week.


The success of the program is in the numbers: About 48,000 fewer trays and about 48,000 fewer gallons of water were used in the 11 weeks the program was in place.


“I think that speaks pretty clearly where students are at,” Wick said.


She said taking a tray when they arrive at a dining facility on campus is a habit for many students: If the trays are there, students take one. If the trays aren’t there, students don’t even bother to ask.


Chartwells went even greener this semester, offering trays only upon request every day of the week.


The dining service provider estimates about 192,000 fewer trays and about 192,000 fewer gallons of water will be used this semester.


UW-Whitewater is among hundreds of college campuses across the country that recently have gone trayless, citing such benefits as reduced food waste, reduced water and energy consumption and cost savings.


While the expanded “trayless” program has only been in place for about four weeks, the response has been positive, Wick said, especially as more students realize the impact they’re making.


“A lot of students see the potential,” she said. “I think when you look at a number like that, it’s so substantial—and I think students see their place in that.”


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Students at UW-Whitewater are developing another environmentally friendly habit: Refilling plastic bottles with soda, juice and water at campus dining facilities.


In an effort to reduce the use of disposable cups, Chartwells, the dining service provider on campus, introduced “Project: Green Thumb.”


The program encourages students to spend $2.99 for a 28-ounce reusable bottle and use it when they get beverages at the Prairie Street Market, Drumlin Market and the James R. Connor University Center. Beverage purchases are discounted if students use their bottle.


Ann Wick, marketing director for Chartwells, said the dining service provider wanted to offer students something attractive and convenient that would make an impact on consumption.


The bottles being sold this year resemble the ubiquitous (and more expensive) Nalgene bottles that college students for years have tucked into or clipped onto their backpacks.


Wick said Chartwells ordered about 600 bottles and sold about 60 percent of them within the first two weeks of the school year.


The program is available to students who live in on-campus residence halls and off-campus apartments.


Wick said the dining service provider estimates about 80,000 fewer disposable cups will be used this semester.



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