By Gabrielle Ruxin
We have finally come to the end of our two-quarter research project and our team has learned so much! Our initial waste audits at the dining halls shocked us with how many pounds of waste are collected each meal period. Then, in spring we attempted to communicate our results with the student body and give them the same shock that we experienced, but with a feeling of empowerment that they are able to change the amount of waste produced. We also hope that our findings from our winter quarter waste audits may be able to make an impact on the meals served in the dining halls based on student preferences and commonly wasted foods.
This food waste project would be most successful if it continues every year. Thus, we propose that a new Waste Watchers team be established, which can build an institutional memory and track changes throughout time. Our surveys and education initiatives in spring were successful, though it was difficult to reach a large audience in such a short amount of time. Surveys are a very good source of information and can be compiled into a database, which can be useful for dining hall staff. However, we feel that there is a lot of work to be done with surveying more students, and expanding the survey as campus climates shift and food literacy becomes more prevalent on our campus.
This past week, we presented our findings, which we are very proud of, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. We hope that future teams can play a role in revolutionizing sustainable food and providing a solid research base for this shift towards sustainability. Our work was a small, but powerful step in a process that is taking place globally as more people are becoming interested in sustainable food and growing aware of sustainable food practices.