Waste and Water Watchers - Integrating Sustainable Food Systems

By Maddy Routon

It's going to be an exciting year for the Sustainable Food Systems team of 2014, and undoubtedly an impactful one for California. As we move into the new year, it seems that the troubles of 2013 have moved with us. The driest calendar year in California history, and the fourth warmest year on record, 2013 does not bode well for our future. Headlines scream apocalyptic slogans and weathermen applaud our “summer in January.” Climate change is happening all around us, and it’s put us in a rather sticky (and sweaty) situation.

 However, the SFS team is hopeful. As we have ironed out the kinks and began to elucidate our plan for the year, we see this time of increased awareness and firsthand experience of the dangers putting our environment at risk as an opportunity. The earth is built upon interconnectivity and fluctuation, yet often we get so stuck in silos and specializations that we can’t see the forest for the trees. Climate change is one aspect of a bigger picture of degradation and entropy, one including everyday practices engaged in by all of us rather than just oil tycoons and transnational corporations. The SFS team wants to use this year of action to educate our campus (and dare I say the world) about the many linkages between food, waste, water, and climate change.

This year, we’ll be measuring the amount of food wasted each day in two dining halls on our campus: De Neve, an example of the typical buffet-style hall, and Bruin Plate, the new health- and sustainability-focused hall created with the help of last year’s team. We’ll be comparing the volume of food waste at each hall to determine the effects of seasonality, portion size, and healthfulness on the amount of food wasted.

We hope that through educating the campus about our findings, we can revolutionize mentalities held about food and inspire a conscious behavior of sustainable practices. We want students to know about the water it takes to produce each slice of bread and boiled egg they throw away, about the fossil fuels combusted to level the fields of their organic spring lettuce they’re having second thoughts about.

The upcoming year will undoubtedly be one of change for our world, our country, our state, and, if we have anything to say about it, our school.

We decided to start small and educate ourselves first about the water that went into our favorite foods:


Maddy - Pumpkin Curry (1 bowl) = 3710 litres

[Rice, potatoes, sauce (tomatoes, milk, spices), pumpkin, cabbage]

Joseph - Coffee (1 cup x 7 days) = 980 litres per week

Alice - Two eggs for breakfast = 3030 litres

Hannah - Mango = 1800 litres

Katie - Taco (1) = 3990 litres

(Rice, maize tortillas, lettuce, salsa)