The cafeteria at UVM's Harris Millis complex is still all-you-can-eat.
But students are finding it's more aptly described as all-you-can-carry.
"It's a little tougher to get as much food as I want, but it's not a big deal," sophomore Elliott Jenks said. "I can stack them."
This month UVM eliminated trays. It's a trend catching on in schools across the country and across Vermont. UVM is trying it after the success of a one-week test period last year.
"At the end of that time period we had a 42 percent reduction in food waste that we sent to compost at the Intervale, so that was a pretty significant drop," said Melissa Zelazny, the dining services manager at UVM. She says food isn't the only thing saved by getting rid of trays.
"It certainly cuts down on the ware washing, the dish machine, the usage of water and electricity and chemicals," she said. "If you think about a tray that's occupying the conveyor belt in the dish room, it takes up a lot of space. You can only do one in each slot, so it's running constantly. We're estimating potentially 100,000 gallons of water reduction and over 56,000 kilowatt hours of electricity."
Harris-Millis is one of three resident dining facilities at UVM. Together they serve 4000 students a day, so that translates to 4000 trays that don't have to be washed.
"I guess it cuts down on water and washing waste," said freshman Natalie DiBlasio. "And everyone makes it just carrying their plates over so there's no need for trays."
"I think it's a great idea," sophomore Marty Schneider said. "It cuts down on waste, people are less likely to take too much food, and therefore throw away food."
But not everyone thinks it's a great idea.
Basketball player Joey Accaoui says trays made it a lot easier to carry a lot of food.
"It's tough to walk around with all these plates and a lot of my teammates have the same problem," he said. "Especially after practice you have so many drinks and they start piling up. It's not good."
Trays are tucked in a corner and available for anyone who needs one. But UVM expects cutting their use will pay off.
"We do meter this location separately for electricity and for water so we should be able to see what the reduction is from last fall to this fall," Zelazny said.
Cafeterias at Champlain and Middlebury colleges went trayless a year ago.
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