The university re-vamped the way it feeds students.
From waste, to waists, the university is making some pretty hefty claims about cutting back.
But just how much is the U of I gaining from losing something in the dinner line?
WCIA 3's Cynthia Schweigert puts that in perspective.
I asked U of I student, Tapan Chete if he thought there was anything missing from his lunch.
"Yeah, the green vegetables I guess."
"The only thing missing from my lunch today would be fruit-," said another student, Matt Hill.
But these students are missing something else, something U of I students got for decades before them.
They're missing trays for their food.
"I'd actually rather have a tray, that'd be a lot easier to carry a few plates and a cup," Hill said.
"I'd rather have a tray because you can see my green beans are touching my pizza and if I had a tray I could have more space for my food," student Daniel Levin chimed in.
"Having a tray would allow me to get more food, which isn't good because I'd eat everything. And, I'm really short so that wouldn't look good," their friend Allison Pauley added.
Turns out, a lot of students would, and did eat more when trays were available.
They also threw more away.
So in 2008, the U of I decided to go trayless.
Dawn Aubrey works in the Housing and Dining Department at the University.
She says, ditching trays has lead to students ditching less food.
"It means on a daily basis, we have reduced our waste by 9,616 pounds per day. By more than 9,000 pounds which is the equivalent to almost two smart cars," Aubrey said.
Staff at the dining hall say it all comes down to something you probably heard from your parents- your eyes are bigger than your stomach.
If you have a tray, that can definitely prove to be true.
You can fit up to four plates on a tray, and pile each one high with food.
But now, students just grab a plate.
It's a lot smaller and there isn't as much room to pile on food.
Since only 40% of students come back for seconds, that means there's a lot less waste.
"Maybe it would make my life easier to carry my cup and plate at the same time, but I think I can do without if it helps other people be fed or save food," Hill said.
But, the savings don't stop with the food. Now, there are fewer dishes to clean.
Aubrey says since getting rid of the trays, the university has reduced its water usage by 110,000 thousand gallons a year, and cut back on chemicals by twelve tons a year.
"It has been our single most sustainability initiative.It's the best thing we could've done," Aubrey said.
The U of I saves about $80,000 a year by cutting back on chemicals. She also says, reducing waste means the university doesn't have to buy as much food- she estimates that as a savings of $2 million
The U of I isn't just saving cash, it's saving on calories.
The university did a study after going trayless and found students are eating, on average, about 500 fewer calories per meal.