OPINION: DePauw’s food climate: Use composting to combat food waste

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Ashley Junger is a junior
English literature and biology major
from St. Louis, Missouri.
CHRISTA SCHRODEL / THE DEPAUW

When the topic of waste reduction comes up, most people think about recycling more, reusable water bottles and minimal packaging. These are all important elements to reducing overall waste; however, food waste represents a huge loss of resources, yet is widely accepted.

When food gets thrown away, more than just the physical food is being wasted. There are huge invisible inputs that go in to producing that food. For example it takes 19.35 gallons of water to produce just one orange. When food gets wasted a lot of valuable resources like, water, fossil fuels and time get wasted as well.

Therefore, DePauw needs to carefully examine the realities of its food waste, and combat this loss through education and implementing a composting system.

According to statistics provided by Jason Rose of Bon Appétit, the Hub throws away an average of 30.5 lbs. at breakfast, 71.33 lbs. at lunch and 59 lbs. at dinner. This waste consists entirely of food scraps and napkins. Therefore, DePauw students are generating 160.83 lbs. of food waste per day on average in the Hub alone. If the Den, the cafes, duplexes, apartments, dorms and Greek houses were included this number would be much higher.

On average each student wastes 5.45 oz. at breakfast, 3.95 oz. at lunch and 3.86 oz. at dinner. A student who attends all three meals will produce almost a pound of food waste per day!

Reducing food waste also reduces the amount of resources wasted on producing that food. There are two ways to achieve this reduction: education and composting.

Many people waste food because they are unaware of the inputs that go in to producing the food, and because they don’t feel confident in judging what foods are safe to eat. Further educating students on the variety and volume of resources that go in to producing a single meal will increase awareness of food waste, and allow students to recognize the importance of reducing the amount of food they throw away. Providing education on expiration dates, sell by dates and methods to judge the safety of food will help prevent students from throwing out edible food because they are unable to judge its safety.

Even if we were able to reduce DePauw’s food waste by 90 percent, there would still be food waste. In line with the University’s slogan for the 2014-2015 academic year, “Zero Waste,” no amount should be wasted. Therefore, increased education is not enough to make DePauw’s food systems waste free. We also need to implement a composting system. Composting food waste allows us to reclaim the resources that were put into the food. An uneaten orange can become fertilizer for a flowerbed or food for some hungry pigs. This way all the water, gas, time and energy put into producing food doesn’t end up in a landfill. It can be transformed through composting, and made useful.

To aid DePauw in working towards “Zero Waste,” a food education program and a composting system should be implemented on campus, thereby reducing and repurposing the food waste DePauw generates.