If you need any evidence of the impact of student research on life at American University's campus, look no further than something that's missing.
Following a 2009 study at American University's main dining hall that showed a significant reduction in food waste and dishes used when trays were removed, trays have mostly gone the way of beanies and sock hops.
Now, for the first time, a new paper coauthored by AU professor Kiho Kim and AU environmental studies graduate Stevia Morawski, provides hard evidence of big energy savings as well as a 32 percent reduction in food waste. The article, "Quantifying the Impact of Going Trayless in a University Dining Hall," was published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition.
"Our concern was that all of these other institutions were jumping on the bandwagon in the absence of data," Kim said of the trend of universities tossing out trays. A Washington Post article, for example, reported that other area institutions that have gone trayless include Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, James Madison, and the University of Virginia.
A recent Kansas State University study also showed that students wasted 15 percent less food when they were exposed to slogans such as "All Taste . . . NO WASTE," according to Reuters Health.
"Really the only substantive study people were referring to was this industry study," Kim noted. "We made the argument that you can't entirely trust the industry. The industry studies showed no methodology on how they came up with this number. They simply said, 'We surveyed a bunch of places and they show a 30 percent reduction in food waste.' But how do we know it's a scientifically credible study?"
The original 2009 AU study was a good start in correcting that deficiency, but Kim wanted to tighten up its rigor and methodology. So during six days in February through March 2009, Kim and his environmental science students made dining ha
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