New Sadler Dining Hall serves as green stepping stone

With trayless and paperless dining, the newly renovated Sadler Dining Hall is the starting point for a new wave of sustainable changes at SU.

When students returned to campus late this August, they found a completely new Sadler Dining Hall. Now fitted with an updated décor, expanded seating, and a more efficient food service set-up, there’s something a bit more noticeable that’s missing: The trays and napkins. Saddler dining hall, in addition to its renovation, was also transformed into what is theoretically now the campus’s most sustainable dining hall.

Trayless dining has been on its way for quite some time. When Ernie Davis Dining Hall opened in 2009, it was stocked with extra-large plates to discourage the use of trays. Despite this, tray use was not significantly impacted, so it was back to the drawing board.

Discussions about the ease of navigating the dining halls without a tray have been hot topics of debate at meetings across campus for years. A study performed last year by the Syracuse University Sustainability Division found that not only does going trayless reduce waste and lower water usage for cleaning — there’s also almost no additional stress or effort needed to get your food.

In addition to the trays, there’s another aspect of the new Sadler renovations that is not as well received: the dining hall has replaced the paper napkins (compostable, by the way) of other dining halls with reusable cloth napkins. In theory these napkins should be reducing waste – that is, the environmental impact of washing these napkins every day should be less damaging than the production and disposal of the old napkins. Personally, I’d like to see some more research on this. I’m hard-pressed to believe that the costs – both economic and environmental – of the frequent napkin washing and the transfer back and forth between the dining hall and the laundry location could truly be less than compostable napkins.

But as a whole, I’m excited to see Syracuse University taking some real steps towards environmentally sustainable measures here on campus. It’s nice to see student and departmental input being taken into account in designing these programs, and ideally this will continue for future endeavors.

Do I think that this small step means that some greater leap – perhaps divestment – might be up next?

Of course not. But small steps are how it starts. I’d like to see this data after the first few months of this dining hall operating, and perhaps eventually seeing the program piloted in other dining halls. In general, though, you go SU! Keep up the good work.

Dining hall

washing napkins is far more destructive. If you want to use napkins, make them from organic materials--hemp, flax, corn...hemp would be my first choice--and that way you can kill two birds with one campaign...better yet-no napkins. students can bring their own wipes. In China, very few food services anywhere provide napkins--if they do they charge for them--people just bring their own everywhere they go. But they should be hemp...get out there and advocate for legal hemp production--save the trees! And save land. or wait--people can just go back to hankies--and carry their own face hanky everywhere--rinsible at any local restroom. A good movement for you at school would be to start carrying a noticeable green hanky for this purpose and start a trend (and a business) with proceeds going to green movements. if you eat slower and with more grace--don't be a piggy--you wont need so many napkins.

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