It was hard to miss the Zero Waste Campaign at Rice with the multitude of posters in every server. The Zero Waste Campaign worked to reduce food waste within the Rice campus over the course of two weeks. By implementing this program, the environmental committee at Rice has worked to open our eyes to the issue of food waste and the negative effects that come with it.
Food waste is defined by the USDA as “when an edible item goes unconsumed, such as food discarded by retailers due to undesirable color or blemishes and plate waste discarded by consumers.”1 The magnitude of the food waste issue is apparent as 40 percent of U.S. food is wasted annually.1 Food wasting is especially prevalent on college campuses. As many colleges have a buffet-style dining, students take a great abundance of food that goes to waste. In fact, the average college student produces 142 pounds of food waste a year.1 Nori Yamashita, director of food service operates at University of Denver stated, “Usually students take as much as they think they can eat. Once they sit down and start to eat, they realize they took too much.” 4 As a result, college campuses generate a 22 million pounds of wasted food annually.3
Universities and colleges have taken innovative approaches to combat food waste. One method is by incorporating a new system of tray-free dining. A Loyola University study discovered that eliminating trays and reduce plate sizes reduces food waste by 25 percent.3 Another way to reduce food waste is by repurposing leftovers. At the University of Maryland, students created the Food Recovery Network delivered 70-90 kilograms of their cafeteria leftovers to local food shelters every night.2 Likewise, composting is another technique that reduces food waste. Students at University of California Davis have created Project Compost. The program composts the leftover coffee grounds and other foods into their community gardens as it nourishes the soil.3
Like many other universities, Rice has also adopted practices in order to reduce the food waste produced. By using ID swiping, the number of swipes allows the kitchen to prepare an amount of food that minimizes food waste as the number of lunch swipes approximates the number of swipes for dinner. 5 Not only has Rice adapted tray-free dining, but Rice utilizes food from the local Rice Farmers market. 30 percent of Rice’s food budget is spent on these local purchases.5 Food leftovers are also reused and recycled into new dishes. For example, leftover grilled chicken can be incorporated in soups and stews.5
To truly eliminate the food waste issue on this campus, we students must take the initiative. We have to consciously think of the effects of our actions on the environment. The Zero Waste program showed successful results in reducing food waste, but this is one step in a long process.
Amani Ramiz is a freshman from Brown College at Rice University.
1. Food Waste. http://www.campuskitchens.org/food-waste/ (accessed 11/21/2015), part of the Campus Kitchens Project
2. Jameson, Charlotte. Youth Fighting Food Waste on College Campuses. http://foodtank.com/news/2013/04/youth-fighting-food-waste-on-college-campuses (accessed 11/21/2015), part of Food Tank
3. Poon, Linda. When Food is Too Good To Waste, College Kids Pick Up The Scraps. http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/02/27/389284061/when-food-is-too-good-to-waste-college-kids-pick-up-the-scraps (accessed 11/21/2015), part of NPR
4. Lilly, Allison. Colleges Reducing Food Waste and Greening the Earth. http://www.universitybusiness.com/article/colleges-reducing-food-waste-and-greening-earth (accessed 11/21/2015), part of University Business Sustainability. http://dining.rice.edu/undergraduate-dining/about/sustainability/ (accessed 11/21/2015), part of Rice Dining