Mar 5, 2021 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Psalm Delaney | Illustration by Bibi Powers

It’s 7 a.m. in Seoul, South Korea. My alarm clock rings. I open the blinds, get dressed, and stumble to the kitchen. I make a cortado with almond milk and a soy yogurt, topped with bananas and peaches. When I’m finished, I empty the grounds and banana peel into a biodegradable food-waste bag and rinse my yogurt cup before placing it into the recycling container. I eat breakfast and get started on my Latin homework, assured that my breakfast is low-waste.

While low-waste living is highly encouraged and popular in our Colorado College community, it is mandatory in South Korea.

In Colorado, the state government has made major steps towards environmental protection recently, from the announcement Colorado Springs will decommission Martin Drake Power Plant to promoting initiatives against single-use plastic bags.

The government, however, has not aggressively addressed the looming issue of greenhouse gas emissions from food waste or the fact that the U.S. food waste alone produces the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as 37 million cars.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, food waste is the “single largest” category of waste that is placed in landfills. Across the globe, 1.3 billion tons of food, equivalent to one third of the world’s food supply, is wasted annually.

When my family and I moved into our home here in South Korea, we were given careful instructions about how we should dispose of waste. Rather than having two waste bins – one for recycling and one for waste – our household now has four. We have one for plastic recycling, one for paper recycling, one for compost, and one for all other waste.

All food waste is discarded in a biodegradable food waste bag. A single 50-liter (13-gallon) biodegradable bag costs about 1,250 Korean won, which is about $1.11. In the U.S., a standard 13-gallon trash bag costs about $0.12.

Though these bags are nearly ten times more expensive per unit when compared to the U.S., these bag charges reportedly fund 60% of the waste management costs. As a result, the amount of recycled food waste has jumped from 2% to 95% since 1995. The food is often recycled as fertilizer and sometimes as animal feed.

Numbers like these provide some encouragement and reassurance that our nation, state, city, and university could have a similar impact. As it turns out, CC and other local organizations in the Springs are already diverting waste from our landfills and encouraging growth within the soil and in the community.

Soil Cycle is a social enterprise of Food to Power (formerly Colorado Springs Food Rescue) that offers a food waste collection service to everyone in the Colorado Springs area. The initiative partners with over 50 local businesses, schools, farms, and other organizations (including CC and Bon Appetit) to collect food waste, conduct research, cultivate community gardens and provide fresh food to those with limited access to it.

No matter where you live, composting is almost always an option. If you live on campus, be sure to dispose of your food waste items at the compost bins. If you live outside of campus in the local Springs area, you can have your household’s food waste picked up by Soil Cycle or drop it off at any of their compost collection locations. If you live anywhere else in Colorado, check out this wonderful list of compost organizations near you.

In a world where it seems that everything is withering away at the fault of our actions, it is encouraging to see people making an effort to be good stewards of our earth. Every little action goes a long way – even if it’s simply composting your coffee grounds and recycling your milk carton. Food waste is a global issue, and it requires a team effort. No matter where you are this semester, stay mindful about little things and know that you can be a catalyst for change in your community.

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