Scores of colleges and universities across the country are shelving their cafeteria trays in hopes of conserving water, cutting food waste, softening the ambience, and saving money, reports the New York Times. Some even believe trayless cafeterias could help avoid the dreaded "freshman 15"–the number of pounds supposedly gained in the first year on campus (and on all-you-can-eat meal plans). The Sustainable Endowments Institute, a research organization that tracks environmental practices at the 300 colleges and universities with the largest endowments, said that 126 of them had curtailed use of trays. "The trend has definitely taken off," said Mark Orlowski, executive director of the institute, which this fall plans to add a question about trayless cafeterias to an annual survey. "It reduces not just waste, but energy and water consumption. Over all, it’s been very successful." At Williams College in western Massachusetts, the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives estimates that the college is saving 14,000 gallons of water annually since eliminating trays last spring at one of four campus dining halls, where 147,000 trays had been washed a year. The other dining halls are scheduled to go trayless in the fall…

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