Waste not want not: How we can reduce food waste in Commons

Another fall season has left our beloved Bates as beautiful as ever. Whether it’s the crisp air, the falling leaves or the sweet apples, October is truly something special here in Maine. As we head into November, we look forward to traditional moments on campus such as pumpkin carving, the Harvest Dinner and delicious cider and donuts. To better appreciate the bounty of food we are lucky to have, I would like to encourage our community to focus on one important aspect of our habits at Commons: food waste.

To give you a snapshot of the current food waste situation, I’d like to share a few notable points. 

  • Commons produces 429,000 lbs. of waste a year with more than half of that attributed to uneaten food waste.
  • If each diner reduced their food waste by one ounce per meal- three french fries, a single chicken nugget, or a quarter of a slice of pizza – we could cut food waste in half. 
  • 27 lbs of food are dropped on counters every day.
  • Commons diverts approximately 82%of the waste generated by recycling, donating uneaten portions of food to the Trinity Jubilee Center in Lewiston, composting napkins and food waste left on plates, and using a local pig farmer for pre-consumer food scraps.

You might be wondering, “Why all the big fuss over food waste if Bates just deals with it responsibly anyway?” While Commons and Dining Services staff members work hard to recycle and compost, most of this extra processing and effort could be avoided if individuals consumed with fewer wasteful habits. 

We can tackle this issue by approaching our food choices with gratitude and awareness, and by using our guided intuition to reduce waste. 

Some simple ways to reduce food waste include checking the menu before coming to Commons to plan your meal, holding your plate close to the serving trays to avoid dropping food on counters and, if you’re eating something new, trying a small portion to see if you like it before coming back for more. Additionally, to help with composting efforts at the tray return, please leave food scraps on your plate/tray, put non-recyclable items like peanut butter PCs, plastics and wrappers in the hole marked “Trash” and leave napkins and tea bags on your tray or put them into bins marked “Compost.”

If we each take a few of these simple steps at Commons, we will see significant changes in how much waste we are generating as a community. As a gentle reminder, please be sure to treat Commons with respect and appreciation, leaving mugs in their proper place, picking up leftover table scraps and thanking our incredible staff members for all of their hard work.