Increasingly, colleges and universities are eliminating dining hall trays to cut down on food waste. Happily, it’s become hard darn near impossible to keep up with trayless schools, but here’s an incomplete list of who’s doing what:

St. Joseph’s College (ME)–Started the whole thing (blog)

Colby College (ME)–”Trayless Thursdays” for the last few years

Northwood University (FL)–Trayless since Fall 2006

San Francisco State (CA)–eliminated trays (blog)

Middlebury College (VT)–Trayless since Fall 2007

University of Central Oklahoma–Trayless for October, 2007 (blog)

Tulane University (LA)–Every meal, every day, starting in 2008

Alfred University (NY)–Trayless across campus, starting in 2008

UC Santa Cruz (CA)–One day, Jan. 29, 2008

Harvard (MA)–One dining hall, four nights in February, 2008 (blog)

University of Connecticut–One dining hall in February, 2008 (blog)

Morrisville State College (NY)–Optional for February, 2008 (blog)

Ohio University–Experimented with it, February, 2008 (blog)

San Diego State (CA)–Fridays starting in March, 2008

Columbia University (NY)–weekly pilot program, spring semester, 2008

Williams College (MA)–weekly program, started March, 2008 (blog)

University of New Hampshire–weekly program, spring semester, 2008

Elon College (NC)–Trayless across campus, February, 2008

Palm Beach University (FL)–trayless campus, gave away trays.

University of Florida–one-week experiment, April 2008

William & Mary (VA)–trayless experiment, spring 2008

Wartburg College (IA)–one week experiment, March-April 2008

University of Alaska Fairbanks–one week experiment, March 2008

University of Montana–Missoula–pilot project, April 2008

Virginia Tech–one-week experiment, April 2008

University of Kansas–Earth Day trial, April 2008

Drexel University (PA)–”Trayless Tuesdays,” started April 2008

Western Washington University–Earth week experiment, April 2008

Luther College (IA)–Trayless Week, April 2008

East Carolina University (NC)–August 2008

University of Minnesota–September 2008

University of Vermont–September 2008

Mount Mercy College (IA)–September 2008

University of Pennsylvania–September 2008 (confirmed in person!)

I’ve heard that these schools have gone trayless, but I can’t find links:

Dartmouth College (NH)

Skidmore College (NY)

Evergreen State College (WA)

NOTE: Happily, due to the volume of schools that have gone trayless, I’m unable to keep up. Consider it a continuing success story for reducing food waste!


  1. andrea devers
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 4:47 am | Permalink

    the university of alaska fairbanks (UAF) went trayless for a week in March this year. I think it was last week… but I don’t have a meal plan, so I wasn’t paying much attention to the project. I can’t find any documentation online, but I’ll keep looking. It might show up in the student paper this week. is dining services’ website.


  2. Jonathan
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Andrea. I’ll be on the lookout and please do let me know if you see anything online.

  3. Posted April 14, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    The University of Montana – Missoula is unrolling a Trayless Pilot Project in their all-you-can-eat venue, The Food Zoo, as part of the Earth Week Celebrations starting April 21st. More information at University Dining Services webpage:

  4. Kaitlyn Ambrosiani
    Posted April 15, 2008 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Drexel University, Trayless Tuesdays started this month

  5. Halli Winstead
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    The Evergreen State College is testing Going Tray-less for Earth Week as a part of the Green Thread Program that has just recently been adopted in Food Service. We plan to test Tray-less this week to see if it’s feasible to go completely tray-less for the next academic year.

  6. Chris Kenney
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Western Washington University went trayless for earthweek

  7. Posted September 29, 2008 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    We recently visited our older daughter’s school, St. Cloud State University, and they are doing some trial runs of “trayless.” I sure hope it sticks…although it was nice to have a tray when ushering around a 2 year-old during family weekend.

  8. Jonathan
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the link, Rena. It’s good of Sodexho to publish that information. If you’re ever at St. Cloud State again on a trayless day, you can ask for a tray. Most schools, even ones who are trayless every day, keep some around for those with special needs.

  9. Posted October 2, 2008 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota just held a trayless experiment. They saw a reduction in food and liquid waste!
    There has been a lot of discussion generated about making the switch. Right now the college has not decided the fate of the trays but it is becoming a student led initiative.

  10. Posted October 15, 2008 at 8:53 am | Permalink


    Please add East Carolina University to your list of “trayless universities”. We tested going trayless last year and were surprised by the food savings. We saved even more than expected. Anyway, here is the website for more information

    Keep up the good work!

  11. Jonathan
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Bill, consider it done!

  12. Posted October 26, 2008 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    The University of Connecticut has removed trays in all but one dining hall on campus. This other dining hall has significantly reduced the size of the trays. This new policy was instituted after the positive results from the pilot program and food waste audit conducted in one of the dining halls during the last academic year 2007-2008.

  13. Xarissa
    Posted November 18, 2008 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Another article on trayless-ness at universities, quoting Jonathan!

  14. Sam
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    The school I attend, Pitzer College in Claremont, California has also gone trayless. Here’s the link:

  15. Michael
    Posted December 1, 2008 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Knox College in IL has went trayless and uses the Eco ClamShell for takeout food!

  16. Posted December 1, 2008 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Jamestown College in Jamestown, North Dakota went trayless in January 2008.

  17. Philipp
    Posted December 8, 2008 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    bentley university just went trayless this semester

  18. Posted January 8, 2009 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Tiffin University goes trayless beginning next Monday, January 12, 2009.

  19. F. Liang
    Posted January 26, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    When I first came to this country, from a poorer one, some years ago for college, I worked for the dining services on campus. I was so utterly astounded by the amount of food waste in the cafeteria that I complained to my supervisor. He was dismissive, of course. Now, everywhere I look, all I see is an entitled people taking their material abundance completely for granted. Hard to respect these people.

  20. Posted March 24, 2009 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Goucher College is also trayless!

  21. Posted April 7, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    The University of Nebraska-Lincoln went trayless March 2009

  22. Posted April 18, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Beloit College just went trayless in the fall of 2008

  23. Lee
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Fitchburg State College has gone trayless since April 13th, 2009.

  24. Ravi Sahai
    Posted April 23, 2009 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    Hi my name is Ravi and I’m trying to get my school to go Trayless. The only problem is that the main dishwasher in the dining complex runs all day long so it doesn’t seem that eliminating trays would lead to any savings. Does anyone know of any solutions/had experience with this at another school?

  25. Posted April 23, 2009 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I’d focus on the $ savings and environmental benefit from wasting less FOOD. The water savings are nice, but nobody has really quantified that factor, anyway. (if someone has, please let me know!!)

  26. Posted April 27, 2009 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Monmouth College in Illinois will start trayless dining in the fall of 2009. Here is a link to the story:

    Call me at 309-457-2117 if you have any questions. I wrote the news release.

  27. Posted April 29, 2009 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Lasell College converted to trayless dining in the fall of 2008 ( We measured food waste in December and found a significant reduction in waste (

  28. janes'_kid
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    FYI reported on trayless today at Without Cafeteria Trays, Colleges Find Savings

  29. Joe
    Posted May 28, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Loyola University tried tryless but it only seems to offer a marginal improvement. We feel the real problem is that the “all you can eat” cafeteria simply enourages food wast. Plans are being made for the conversion of all campus cafeterias to a la cart style.

  30. steague1
    Posted June 2, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Mars Hill College, NC went trayless this year!

  31. Posted October 1, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink


    My father-in-law brought to my attention that UNLV is also going trayless. Thought I’d share the article.

  32. Jeremy Borg
    Posted November 23, 2009 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Drury University is a wonderful Liberal Arts school located in Springfield, Missouri. The institution became trayless in February 2009, thanks in part to Think Green, a student organization of which I am a member. Drury promotes sustainability to its students and community, and has even installed solar panels atop one of the dormitories to save energy used for heating water. One of the reasons I chose the university was because of its many continued efforts toward a more sustainable future.

  33. Posted February 1, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s great that people are going trayless– it saves so much energy/food/etc! I also think they should have “to-go” policies, so kids can take food with them if they don’t finish it.

  34. Posted February 10, 2010 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    hi! Thought I would point out that my school, American University, went trayless last April after conducting a study showing how much food waste is prevented.

    Here is the press release they put out:

    and an article about it in our school paper:


  35. katie
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA is in the second semester of its first year being trayless, as well.

  36. Posted March 21, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    John Carroll University’s Schott Dining Hall in Cleveland, OH went “trayless” in 2008.

  37. liz
    Posted March 27, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Sacramento state University in CA has no trays

  38. Alex F
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Tufts University, in Medford, MA will begin campus-wide traylessness in Fall 2010!

  39. danielle
    Posted August 25, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA is also trayless!

  40. Fa
    Posted December 26, 2010 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    University of Hawaii at manoa, the main cafeteria of which is run by sodexo, has been trayless for at least a year, maybe even two.

  41. Noelle
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    University of Rochester (NY) went trayless a year or two ago!

  42. Alicia
    Posted May 27, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Not only colleges/universities are going trayless – Holland America Cruise Line doesn’t use trays anymore. I’m sure it’s cut down on their waste, every little bit helps!

  43. Liz McBride
    Posted August 29, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I go to Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia and we don’t have trays. The cafeteria also pushes that students use the traditional plates/silverware instead of plastic/paper to cut down on trash.

  44. John Cummins
    Posted September 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Bucknell University went 100% trayless in Fall of 2011!
    Also composting post consumer tray waste with a local farmer and are now past the 6 ton mark!

  45. Shannon
    Posted October 31, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, VA has gone trayless this year as a part of the “Year of Sustainability”

  46. Melanie Medeiros
    Posted January 16, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Smith College is completely trayless and has been for years.

  47. Posted January 17, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Our cafeteria at Oklahoma Christian University went trayless two years ago. They also stopped offering a paper option for plates and cups.

  48. savannah
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Ga is trayless :)

  49. Justin Lindenmayer
    Posted April 14, 2012 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Yale University has been trayless for a while now as well!

  50. Katrin
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Manchester College, soon to be Manchester University in North Manchester, IN has been trayless for at least a couple of years, too.

5 Trackbacks

  1. By Jack on May 7, 2008 at 5:03 am

    Nice Site. Keep up the good work….

  2. [...] It’s big news these days. From colleges cafeterias going trayless, to food banks receiving, (or not receiving) the leftovers from big events. [...]

  3. By Blogs With Bite « NotionsCapital on January 20, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    [...] Wasted Food – Johnathan Bloom blogs about American food waste and ways to avoid it. 40 percent of USA food raised for consumption is wasted — overlooked by mechanical harvesters, “culled” by packers, wholesalers and supermarkets because of visual imperfections and bad packaging, left to rot in our refrigerators. some remedies: Glean, recover food and donate unused eats, go trayless, shop and eat better. [...]

  4. [...] establishments that are currently tray-free and choosing to compost leftover food scraps include the University of Michigan, Northwestern [...]

  5. [...] sizes at buffets and receptions. Jonathan Bloom has a page dedicated to tracking the results of eliminating food trays in college dining halls and the impact it has had on reducing food waste. Another relevant study [...]

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