Thursday, October 10, 2013

What is Weigh the Waste?

If you were in Terrace Dining Hall on Monday during the lunch hour, you may have been surprised about what you saw.  Instead of putting your dishes into the dish return, you were greeted by students who took your waste for you. 
These students were weighing the amount of food thrown out at the dining hall during a typical lunch hour, as a part of our Weigh the Waste event.  During these events, we will be weighing all post consumer waste (meaning, all of the food that isn't eaten after being served) and tracking the results.  Our hopes are that students and other patrons of the dining hall will be more conscious about the amount of food they are throwing out. We will periodically be having Weigh the Waste events in all of the dining halls this week, and then in two week (starting October 21st).  This is important because starting October 21st is WasteLESS Week! Being mindful of how much food one is wasting at the dining hall is a big part of living a more waste free lifestyle.  IC composts about 3,000 pounds of waste a day...Can we cut that down?

Speaking of Weigh the Waste events, I wanted to share an experience I had today in the dining hall.  I went to Terraces for lunch, and after looking over all the options, I decided to get some food from the hotline.  One thing I got was a curry.  As I sat down to eat, I was excited to dig into a savory curry.  However, when I took the first bite, I was surprised to taste a sweet flavor.  That was totally not what I was expecting.  My first thought was, 'I don't like this.. I'm going to get something else'.  I stopped dead in my thoughts. Why was I so quick to think that I could just throw away this whole plate of food?  Did the food really not sit well with me, or was I just being overly picky?  I sat there and thought...I didn't despise the food, and there was nothing wrong with it, it just wasn't what I expected. So why was I going to dump it all out? I then realized how numb I am to the amount of food I waste.  I also saw how I take for granted the unlimited amount of food and food options at my disposal in the dining hall; when there are other people in the world who would be happy for any kind of food. But just because I have these unlimited options and amounts of food, does that mean I can give up my responsibility to be mindful of how much I am wasting? Not at all.

What this experience showed me was that it's so easy in college to not think about how much we waste, because we have an abundance of options, and we don't have to deal with the messy waste left behind. However, we still have the responsibility to think before we act.  Wasted food means wasted resources, and we don't have that many resources to lose. And what about food insecurity?  If we stopped wasting so much food, there would be more to go to the people who need it. We make enough food to feed everyone on earth, and yet 870 million people go hungry (World Food Program). So next time you go to the dining hall, be considerate about the food you put on your plate.  Only take what you can eat, and go back for seconds if you want more.  If you are unsure whether you will like something or not - try it first! It will save you from wasting a whole plate if you don't like it! There are so many little things we can do to reduce our food waste, and we can make a huge difference if we are all willing to pitch in.

Be thoughtful, waste less!
- Jackie

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