You may have noticed a fluorescent presence near the dish conveyors during lunch last week. Carleton’s Clean Plate Club Initiative volunteers were there to promote reducing food waste in the dining halls and to address the problem of food waste.
Food waste is a huge problem across the country. In the United States, food production uses over 10 percent of energy, 50 percent of land, and 80 percent of freshwater. 40 percent of this food goes uneaten, according to the National Resources Defense Council. At the same time, one of every six people lacks a secure food supply.
To be a “conscious consumer” means little if you are not conscious of what you are not consuming and wasting, as well.
During the initiative, many students proudly returned squeaky-clean plates to the conveyors for a raffle ticket reward. Over the entire week, 840 raffle tickets were rewarded. These tickets were placed in a raffle, where students could win over 40 prizes. Winners were announced in Campus Announcements and on the Sustainability office website.
The results of the initiative were manifold; not only was there a significant reduction in food waste, but the entire initiative provided a framework for discussion about having extra un-eaten food in general.
Pre-initiative waste measurement results showed an average of 3.2oz of food waste/plate, during the initiative this number reduced to 2.0oz of food waste/plate, showing that students were more aware of what food they left behind after their meal.
Additionally, a donation from Carleton was made to the local food pantry. Before the initiative began, Carleton agreed to donate a sum of money based on how much food waste Carleton could reduce. The final sum of money was about $350, thanks to the reduction of 1.2 oz of food waste per plate.
The presence of fluorescent vests and the passionate volunteers behind them got students thinking about their food waste and helped initiate a discussion for the whole school. Ultimately, the Food Waste week was the start of a meaningful conversation about food waste on campus and hopefully students will be more conscious about what they eat and what they leave behind on their plates in the future.