Food Waste: Thirty-two thousand, seven hundred and forty-one pounds of it

We produced 32,741 pounds of food waste that was converted into pig food in October. What a staggering number, right? Nonetheless, more waste needs to be examined. There is also the consideration of materials that are composted (food, tea bags and stirrers,) recycled (paper, plastics, tin, glass, and cardboard) and, finally, unconverted trash going to the landfill. Therefore, 32,741 pounds of food waste is only a fraction of the total waste generated to produce meals in Commons.

Overall, statistics from last October vs. this October reveal that the amount of waste generated in Commons and the amount diverted from the landfill are static. However, we experienced an increase in the amount of food waste produced – up over 5,000 pounds from October 2018. What does that say about our eating habits at Bates?

A positive that arises out of this situation is percentages of waste diverted from the landfill remain static. So, if the outcome is ultimately positive, then what’s the big deal? Some food waste is unavoidable. There will always be inedible apple cores and vegetable peelings that prevents a zero-waste figure for food. Despite this, the question remains: shouldn’t we do better?

Worldwide, food waste is becoming a serious environmental and economic issue that needs to be addressed now. What that means for Bates students is we need to start acknowledging our various forms of privilege. Having the opportunity to attend an institution where we are provided with a steady supply of meals is a privilege. Acknowledge that, and do not run away from it. Do not try to ignore your lousy habits by consistently grabbing a full plate of food, consuming barely one-third of your meal and then using excuses like time constraints or “I didn’t like it.” It’s within your power to plan arrivals or alternate meal plans or to take a sample of something to see if you like it before loading your plate.

Last week, Bates CHEWS hosted No-Waste November, which was designed to inform the student body about food waste in Commons. During this event, we talked about the little actions people can take that will result in a meaningful reduction of food waste in Commons, like mindfully choosing your portions and holding your plate closer to pans when serving yourself. (Consider that when food from counters was collected and weighed for just one day it totaled 27 pounds. Multiply that by all of the service days in Commons and you’ll see that this small action saves hundreds of pounds.) These acts are within the power of the individual student, who has the autonomy to decide what and how they dine.

Moreover, on the same day, Sustainable Bates offered a cooking class with Commons’ Executive Chef Owen Keene to teach strategies about reducing food waste. Some of the information presented included how to break down a whole chicken, how to reuse vegetable scraps for a nutritional and tasty stock, and the multiple ways Commons reuses food.

Moving forward, we need to be consciously aware of how much waste we are producing and how we can play a part in reducing food waste through our everyday decisions. This pattern of producing unnecessary food waste is detrimental to our future, and it is up to us to change this system – one forkful at a time.