• Hannah Ellis

UVA Green Dining Weighs Student Waste

On October 21st, during lunch, Green Dining ran a Weigh the Waste event at O’Hill, Fresh Food Company, and Runk dining rooms to weigh our collective food waste and bring awareness to the issue of food waste. We scraped food, napkins, cups, and other items left on students’ plates into bins which were then weighed. After just two and a half hours, we collected 172.53 pounds of food waste between the three dining halls! According to Feeding America, the average meal is roughly 1.2 pounds; this means our total waste equaled over 143 meals.

Weigh the Waste focuses on reducing waste in the dining halls through student awareness. The goal of these events is to clearly show the amount of unintentional and avoidable waste we all generate. After a meal, whether they’re running to class or talking to friends, the average student probably doesn’t consider where this waste goes or what its environmental impact is. So you may ask, why does my food waste matter? What happens to food waste at UVA? Does UVA even produce enough waste from the dining halls for it to impact the environment? Through Weigh the Waste, the Green Dining team is here to provide some answers!

There are numerous environmental impacts of the food waste produced on Grounds and beyond:

  1. Greenhouse gas emissions: “According to the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global food waste represents more greenhouse gas emissions than any country in the world except for China and the United States” (read more here). Food sitting in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas which greatly contributes to global warming and climate change. While food that is placed on the dish return is composted, composting still can produce greenhouse gases.

  2. Wasting energy, water, and resources: Not only is the food itself wasted but so are resources, such as the water needed to grow and produce it, as well as the resources needed to make, package, transport, and preserve the food. In the United States, all the energy put into these producing all the food that ends up being lost or wasted results in an annual carbon footprint of emissions that are equivalent to over 32 million cars (read more here).

  3. Wasting land: Half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture. Wasting food takes away from biodiversity and wildlife as well as environmental opportunities such as afforestation.

  4. So, what can we do? The first step is to be mindful of how much food you are taking. Especially if you aren’t sure if you’ll enjoy a particular food or if you want to try a bunch of the delicious meal options, remember that you can always ask for less and come back for more!

Want to learn more? Check out these resources:

- https://www.feedingamerica.org/ways-to-give/faq/about-our-claims

- https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/plugged-in/un-says-that-if-food-waste-was-a-country-ite28099d-be-the-3-global-greenhouse-gas-emitter/

- https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/fight-climate-change-by-preventing-food-waste

- https://www.rts.com/resources/guides/food-waste-america/

- https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2021/02/25/climate-curious-food-waste/

- https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food

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