UC Santa Barbara dining halls have saved over $100,000 since fall 2009 through the use of sustainable practices, and are using those savings to provide more environmentally friendly ingredients like cage-free eggs and fair-trade coffee.

The decision to eliminate trays in the dining commons, piloted in winter 2009 and fully administered by fall 2009, reduced the total waste per person per meal by 37 percent and total average waste per person by 54 percent, according to the Campus Sustainability Committee’s report. Currently, the school’s residential dining services continue to recycle the profits from existing sustainability campaigns like ‘Meatless Mondays’ and its ban on plastic serving trays, putting those funds towards offering greener alternatives.

The university’s move to consume only cage-free eggs — which has since been adopted by UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, San Francisco State University and a number of other California universities — was put in motion in February of last year and is now utilized throughout all of the dining halls.

Karin Olsson, outreach manager of the Humane Society of the United States’ factory farming campaign, praised UC Santa Barbara for its move to cage-free eggs on campus in a recent press release.

“By switching their residential dining services to exclusively cage-free eggs, UC Santa Barbara has taken an important stand against one of the most inhumane factory farming abuses,” Olsson said. “The Humane Society of the United States applauds UCSB and hopes other schools will follow its positive lead.”

Although cage-free eggs cost about 55 cents per dozen more than regular eggs — a 40 percent increase in price from normal eggs — the profits from the residence halls’ Meatless Mondays and trayless campaigns have absorbed the price increase, ensuring that the price increase fell on neither the university nor the students.

Bonnie Crouse, assistant director of Residential Dining Services, said the ability to implement cage-free eggs was largely made possible by the trayless campaign.

“The tremendous savings from food and water has helped most students,” Crouse said in a phone interview. “No overall financial impacts with food costs have been seen. In fact, there has actually been saving increases.”

The dining commons are also beginning to brew only fair-trade coffee.

Additionally, Dining Services are currently collaborating with Farmer District Produce — a company that distributes farm grown products from over 20 local farms, including Shepherd Farms and Tutti Frutti Farms — to supply much of the produce served in the dining commons.

According to Crouse, organic milk will be the next step.

“We are yet to have certified organic dairy other than soy milk, so we’re looking at dairy as our next project,” Crouse said. “We’re also looking into grass-fed beef, but it’s not exactly readily available to us especially because it’s so expensive, but with the money saved from going trayless, we’ll see what happens.”