By WESTLY JOSEPH AND MIA DORRIS
Have you ever wondered how much food is wasted in Rastall Dining Hall each day? A group of students at the Office of Sustainability had this question and decided to figure out the answer. In planning, the group decided not only to address food waste, but also how the choice of what to eat impacts the environment.
There was a two-week baseline period during Block 6 in which volunteers of the Office of Sustainability and Rastall employees weighed compost bins after lunch and dinner each day. During this baseline period, data was recorded in secret so that eating habits would not be influenced.
After the baseline period, the Food Impact Awareness Campaign commenced throughout the first week of Block 7. During this week, volunteers continued to record the weight of the compost bins, but, additionally, signage was posted throughout Rastall and stickers were handed out on the first day to prompt students to think about the impact of their eating habits.
In conjunction with the educational signage present throughout Rastall was a daily-updated chart located by the dish return area. This chart showed how much food was being wasted compared to the baseline data.
During the baseline period, the average amount of food waste from unfinished plates was 140.7 pounds per day; the average number of Gold Card swipes into Rastall was 890 per day. During the Food Impact Awareness Campaign week, the average amount of food waste was 155.4 pounds per day; the average number of Gold Card swipes was 986 per day. Although it seems that slightly more food was wasted per day during the Food Impact Awareness Campaign week, there were more swipes; so, in reality, the amount of food wasted per person stayed almost exactly the same at 2.4 ounces per person.
Although the amount of food waste per person stayed constant from the baseline period to the campaign week, having data available to students has incited many to start thinking about food waste and the impact of their food choices. It has also given the Office of Sustainability and Bon Appétit effective data that will be useful for the future.
So, what can you do to help reduce food waste and the impact of your food choices on the environment? Here are some tips:
1. When in Rastall, take only what you can eat. For example, make sure you have eaten everything off of your plate before moving on to seconds. If you are not sure you will like something, try a sample first before piling it onto your plate.
2. In order to help reduce food waste all over campus, you can post to “Food Finder” on Facebook when you see excess food from campus events. Our data from this campaign doesn’t even account for the uneaten food in Rastall that either wasn’t served or was left on trays.
3. Colorado Springs Food Rescue delivers Rastall’s extra food after each lunch to different shelters across Colorado Springs. Contact CSFR at Rachel@coloradospringsfoodrescue.org to help reduce food waste even further.
4. Animal products have the largest impact on the environment. Eliminating the consumption of animal products from your diet is the most effective way to reduce your impact, but this is not an option for everyone. Start small by only taking half the amount of meat you normally would at your next meal, or opt for the vegetarian option if you can.
Because this was the first time that data for food waste has been collected in Rastall, the Office of Sustainability saw this campaign as a trial period to learn more about food habits on campus. There are many different opportunities to take the data that has been collected and to move forward in years to come. The Office of Sustainability hopes to continue doing a Food Impact Awareness Campaign every year, along with installing permanent scales under the compost bins in Rastall that display the live weight to students that can also be accessed online. What happens in the future depends on what students are interested in implementing in the years to come. If you are interested in getting involved in food sustainability efforts on campus, please reach out to Westly Joseph at firstname.lastname@example.org.