Charles Roth – for the Lorian
Everyone has a responsibility to create a positive effect on the environment, and Loras is no exception. While recycling and conserving water or energy are great ways a campus can improve its sustainability efforts, another important method often goes unnoticed: consciousness of food waste. In order to improve waste management on campus, Loras Sustainability and DuPeace & Justice, along with Campus Dining, conducted a food waste audit from Monday, Nov. 13, to Saturday, Nov. 19.
Food waste is one of the biggest issues most colleges struggle to address. All food waste that ends up with trash cannot be composted, taking unnecessary space in landfills and producing harmful greenhouse gases. Since composting is a form of recycling, Loras researched food waste at Loras during “America Recycles Week.” The audit collected data on how much food students waste in the Café in one week.
Loras already composts all prepared food that does not reach the plates of students. However, as of right now, once the food touches the plates, it instantly becomes trash because it mixes with non-compostable garbage.
During the food waste audit, students were asked to separate their trash, such as plastic straws, from compostable items including food waste and napkins. At the end of each meal time, the trash and the compostable materials were weighed separately. The results show that after one week, students in the cafeteria wasted almost 1,000 lbs of compostable materials. Over the course of a 40 week school year, an estimated 37,000 lbs of compostable materials are collected and dumped into the landfills. Surprisingly, over 90 percent of the total waste produced was compostable materials. Trash made up less than 10 percent of the waste.
The solution to the food waste issue is simple: students should only take what they are going to be able to finish. Unfortunately, there will always be food waste to some extent. Loras is working with the Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency to continue to improve on how much of that is composted.
The food waste audit was designed to open the eyes of those eating in the cafeteria and to show them what can be done better to reduce the amount of food waste generated. The goal of zero food waste is possible, but it will take participation and cooperation from the entire Loras community for this to happen. Students can, and should, make a mental note to keep this number in mind when visiting in mind. Solution to this problem does not just require the efforts of Loras’ Campus Dining staff, but a cooperation from those who visit the cafeteria on a daily basis.