ECO students advocated for a trayless cafeteria, here’s what they got

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Photo by Patrick Vitale Students share a meal in Haggar after the trays were removed.

Haggar Café removed all trays from the cafeteria this semester in an attempt to save money and be more eco-friendly.

President of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO) and junior theology major Greg Vanderheiden reports that the idea was first proposed by ECO 18 months ago, and Executive Vice President Dr. John Plotts decided to approve the idea.

“If the students brought it forward and the foodservice wanted to do it, I sure wasn’t going to override it,” Plotts said in an interview.

The removal has economic and ecological benefits, as well as providing extra space for silverware where staff used to store trays.

“We don’t save the whole world by removing trays, but it’s a small step in the right direction,” Vanderheiden said. “I think that’s overall a good thing for the university.”

Vanderheiden points out that although the initial reaction may be negative, the pros outweigh the cons. 

“Obviously, there’s the small negative that it’s a little harder to carry plates, which sucks just a little bit, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal … So negatives wise? Not many negatives come out of this,” Vanderheiden said. “Positives, it saves room on the table … And when it comes to economical and ecological benefits, obviously using less water, less chemicals.”

Plotts attempted to make sure that the student body would react positively to the change before he made it. Over the past year, he reports that he tried to look around and see how many students were using trays.

Upon consulting Aramark, he found that many other companies they serve have also made this step. Plotts tells The University News that they called it a “trend.”

Plotts also commented on the presence of the pulper the Café uses, which grinds up waste in the kitchen to be more eco-friendly.

As the university runs the hardware of the kitchen, while Aramark only supplies the staff and the food, no longer cleaning and replacing trays will save the university money. It is unclear how this money will be used, but it is unlikely it will affect meal-plan pricing, according to Plotts.

Removing trays from the Café is one aspect of the University of Dallas’ attempt to become more eco-friendly. It can also be seen through the removal of plastic foam cups from the Cap Bar, a recycling program across campus, and optional straws. 

“There’s a lot of waste that goes with [trays],” Plotts said. “I think you’re right to question what are other things we’re doing on this campus to be more friendly with the environment, and so I think slowly, we’re getting there. We’ll keep getting there.”

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