How Can College Campuses Reduce Food Waste?

tray of food Rubicon Global Food Waste

tray of food Rubicon Global Food Waste

College. Where the possibilities are endless… and so is the food at the dining hall.

You’ve certainly heard about the ‘Freshman 15,’ where first-year college students are more likely to pack on some additional pounds – thanks in large part to the abundance and availability of campus food. But have you heard of the “College 22”?

Probably not.

I know this because I just made it up. But it’s definitely real.

With the abundance of food on college campuses, so too comes an abundance of food waste – 22 million pounds to be exact.

University buffets are inherently catered to students. But without knowing how many students will dine, how much they will eat, and how often they will come, food waste becomes a major concern.

The numbers are astonishing really. A 2017 report shows that the average American doesn’t eat 40% of their food. And as astonishing as that figure is, it gets worse when you realize that food waste causes significant greenhouse gas emissions when left to decompose in a landfill.

Students and universities can take action. Here are four ways to cut down on food waste:

1. Go trayless. Without a tray, you’ll only carry back to the table what you can hold, which means being conscious of what you’re actually going to eat.

2. Connect with a food-waste reduction network or organics recycler. There are many facilities that can convert food waste into potting soil, livestock feed or even biodiesel fuel. The right partner can help you find ways to reduce food waste altogether.

3. Start a student-run composting initiative. Join forces with your student government and take a cue from the University of California, Davis. Their Project Compost aims to educate students about composting and they collect compostable organic matter.

4. Raise awareness. Starting the conversation about food waste can do more than you think. According to a new study, college students throw out 15% less food when dining halls post anti-waste slogans and messaging around the cafeteria.

After implementing just a few of these practices, one campus group estimated a reduction of 7,270 pounds of food waste over a 10-week period. Bonus: That also adds up to an estimated savings of $35,361 per academic year.

You and your campus can make a difference—time to start shedding the food weight.

Ashby Addiss