Waste Watchers

The Students Organized for Sustainability sponsored the Waste Watchers event in the evenings in Mabee Dining Hall the week of Nov. 21 to collect and record the amount of waste produced. They concluded that waste averages about 200 pounds every evening, and they aim to work with Aramark and the Dining Advisory Committee to minimize waste produced after meals.

“Because Aramark sees that the food has been picked up, they interpret this as meaning it has been consumed,” said SOS member Hayley Sayrs.

The event was originally organized by SOS and involved setting up a table in the back of where dishes are submitted in the back of the dining hall. Over the course of several evenings, SOS asked students to pour the leftover contents of their plates into containers, which they then weighed. Their results showed that wasted food totals about 200 pounds each evening. The results of this event will be used in interacting with Aramark in order to discuss what can be done to produce less waste.

The event was organized by the Students Organized for Sustainability, an organization on campus dedicated to encouraging sustainable practices and community. The Dining Advisory Committee has expressed interest in working with SOS and Aramark when communicating the desire for food and waste production, as both organizations seek to minimize unnecessary costs and waste.

“We hope to work closely with SOS because we share some of the same concerns and both organizations go hand-in-hand,” said DAC President Liliana Diaz. “We also want [the DAC] to expand beyond just dealing with Mabee food, and this helped raise awareness.”

In addition to working with Aramark on minimizing waste, SOS members spoke with students and Aramark employees about the event. As reported by SOS members, the response from Aramark employees was enthusiastic, and Sayrs hopes to make the event a recurring one so that Aramark can track the amount of waste that is produced to report progress on decreasing it. Working with the Dining Advisory Committee, Sayrs also hopes to encourage Aramark to provide food that is necessary for students with particular dietary needs as well.

“Instead of negotiating, [Aramark and student groups] are shutting down and being wasteful,” Sayrs said. “I think we can start a conversation by looking at the end of the system and asking ourselves why things are being generated the way they are and why are they not being eaten.”

Members of SOS at the tables noted students’s reactions to the event as well, and felt that a lot of students interpreted their goal as making them realize guilt for the waste created. This was not their goal, however, and in explaining this they found a lot of positive student response towards the goal of the event.

Trinity is not the only university facing issues regarding food waste. In the United States, according to the UDSA, 31 percent of the  available food supply went uneaten in 2010. This number reflects 133 billion pounds of the 430 pounds total. The estimated value of the food loss was $161.6 billion.

A recent 2012 study at the U.N. Climate Summit found similar results, with roughly 35 million tons of food thrown out; worldwide, one-third of food produced never gets eaten.