This semester faculty, staff and students at the University of Richmond can help the environment while they eat. While the local, state and national economies continue to weaken, eating green comes with cost-effective benefits, too.
This summer Dining Services launched the Frequent Diners Program to encourage staff and faculty customers to reduce emissions and save money by eating where they work. This was largely sparked by the need to increase the meal prices because of rising food prices and added fees for deliveries triggered by high gas prices, Stearns said. The higher meal prices became effective on July 1, 2008, the same day the Frequent Diners Program started.
In order to participate, faculty and staff members sign up for the program with Dining Services. After using their university IDs to buy nine meals at the Heilman Dining Center they receive the 10th meal free.
"By offering dining discounts, we hope to keep the faculty and staff eating on-campus instead of traveling the highways, thus reducing fuel consumption and emissions," said Cindy Stearns, assistant director of marketing and special programs for Dining Services. "Normally, we try not to increase the employee rate if at all possible, but due to the overwhelming food price, increases were necessary."
Most faculty and staff members who eat on campus use the program, Stearns said. In November, Dining Services will look at the program and decide whether it will be continued.
The program is accompanied by other initiatives to help the university become more sustainable including "No Tray Fridays." Starting in September customers will need to ask for a tray when eating at the dining hall on Fridays.
People create less waste and use fewer dishes when they don't use a tray, Stearns said. Having fewer dishes to wash uses less water and saves electricity. Diners are less likely to choose foods they will throw away in the end if they don't have a tray to fill up.
"It's a great program and it has immediate impact," Stearns said. "We encourage all our customers to go tray-less whenever possible."
Some students are avoiding using trays all the time.
"I support 'No Tray Fridays' and honestly haven't used a tray yet since arriving back on campus August 7," senior Julie Kokemor said.
In April 2008, Dining Services and the student group Richmond Environmental Network for Economic Willpower, commonly known as RENEW, hosted a "No Tray Tuesday." Fliers in the dining hall advertised that not using a tray would help the environment and help diners to manage their weight as they took less food and walked back and forth between their table and the food counters.
"The kind of fascinating thing about going tray-less is that it really makes you conscious about how much you put on your tray and how much you're eating," senior Lauren Bouas said. "You have to be intentional about planning what you eat so that it all fits on one plate. It's a really good exercise in being self-aware."
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Going "trayless" is becoming a national trend on college campuses. According to an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the University of Virignia elimated trays in its dining center for the current year and beyond. Virginia Tech also eliminated trays in two of its dining centers, lowering the amount of food waste by 38 percent.
Both programs follow the November 2007 signing of a college environmental pact by President Edward Ayers called the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. The pact calls for an institution to create a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach climate neutrality as well as make the plan and progress public record, according to a Collegian article from Nov. 15, 2007.
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