“Why wouldn’t I use a tray?” is the question that I and a few other volunteers posed to all freshmen during the dinner hour at Commons Dining Hall this past week. To me, a “Go Green” follower, I find that the answer is somewhat simplistic: “Because it helps the environment and saves energy.” However, at an engineering school such as Rensselaer, I have found that convincing others of a similar initiative is much more challenging.
Given the fact that most of us here are trained problem solvers, many of the students posed with the challenge were quick to bring up the issue that a tray is needed in order to put their dishes into the dishwashing system. For the smaller majority of students who eat at Sage Dining Hall, such an argument does not exist. However, given the fact that a large population of students eat at Commons, this question cannot be ignored.
In preparation for this event, I had multiple meetings on behalf of the Student Sustainability Task Force with representatives of Sodexo in order to discuss and outline the Tray Free initiative. Having previously co-led the Face the Waste campaign in the spring and observed the rejection of “Tray Free Tuesdays” in previous semesters, I was well aware of the challenges and rejections that green initiatives had faced on campus. The main conclusion of such meetings was that this program would be done initially in order to see what the overall feeling toward such a change would be. The message that Sodexo had left me with was that they were all for the idea, but first needed the support of the student population before they went and invested the time and money into restructuring and rethinking the current dining and dishwashing process.
Over the last week I was able to make a few observations that left me with the feeling that students at RPI would not mind going tray free. When questioning students regarding Tray Free, many responded with, “I always go tray free.” Besides, I am sure that when you are in the comfort of your own home, you do not use a tray. Also, at the beginning of the week, Sodexo was able to keep a cart for the students who chose to go tray free out front. This allowed us to have a valid argument against the tray needed during the dishwashing process.
However, to those of you who argue that trays bring an element of simplicity to their complex student life, it would be ignorant of me to say I do not agree. Obviously, walking back and forth multiple times would inconvenience anyone that just wanted to sit and eat. However, the majority of people agree that being green to some degree is beneficial to the environment; name a green initiative that is easier than walking an additional 50 steps during the day to pick up your eating utensils or glass of milk that you could not grab during your first pass.
Please help SSTF by showing your support for this initiative in order to communicate to Sodexo the need to make the necessary changes to the dishwashing system. For those of you who enjoy your trays, please consider an additional few steps to help RPI go green.