Reducing the Use of Trays Saves Energy, Water & Food

The reduction and elimination of trays in dining facilities have reduced energy use, water use, and food waste at peer institutions, all things we are striving to do here at Amherst College to support our environmental and fiscal sustainability goals. Earlier this semester, the Green Amherst Project (GAP) student group—motivated by our need to save water due to the area drought—collected over 650 signatures from students requesting that Valentine become a trayless dining facility. Upon presenting this information to the administration, the Offices of Environmental Sustainability and Dining Services determined that additional feedback from the campus community would be needed to determine the feasibility of this change. Through a three-week process, we collected written and in-person feedback from more than 600 community members (481 online and approximately 150 in-person responses). We are thankful to GAP for helping to support this effort.

Plate of fish, cherry tomatoes, potatoes
The feedback we collected led us to determine that, with some new procedures and updates, we can successfully implement trayless dining in Valentine. Therefore, starting the second week of interterm, trays will be removed from their current location and we will begin implementing the following changes to facilitate trayless dining:
  • For those that need them for a variety of circumstances, trays will be available by request at the check-in station
  • A drink section with soda, Powerade, water, milk, coffee, and tea will be added to the upstairs dining room
  • Another station to dispose of compost and trash will be added
  • Larger, stackable cups will be added to the breakfast smoothie station
  • Utensil dispensers will be located in the front, back, and upstairs dining rooms
  • Medium-sized bowls will be added, and existing dishware will be reallocated around the service station to offer more variety
  • A solid shelf will be installed where silverware is collected for washing to allow cups and small dishes to be placed down as needed

We will do our best to have all these changes implemented before the start of the spring semester, but circumstances beyond our control (shipment challenges, weather) may cause delays. We will update this site as needed on the progress of these updates. There were many requests for different service ware (dishes, cups). We have chosen to upgrade the most requested items first—larger smoothie cups and medium bowls—and will upgrade other existing service ware to those that better support trayless dining over time as needed.

We feel that moving to a trayless Valentine honors our commitment to environmental and fiscal sustainability, and that once fully executed will support an improved dining experience. We also recognize that this will be an adjustment from status quo and we cannot predict all of the potential positive or negative impacts that may affect diners and dining service staff. We appreciate your patience as we make the proposed updates and any other adjustments that are needed overtime to facilitate this transition. We will also be accepting feedback anytime through the online suggestion box provided by dining services, and if needed will conduct additional, targeted feedback requests.