One way to reduce food waste: Campus Style

UC Davis Dining Commons Demonstration of what college kids waste for Love Food, Hate Waste in January 2013.

Two days ago, I saw a headline in my news feed that I nearly passed over. It read: “Elimination of trays decreases food waste in dining halls.” All I could think about were the opportunities to trip classmates struggling to carry their milk and dinner plates to a table. And then I decided to read on, and learned that in just two years Manchester University has saved:

  • 15,000 pounds of food from becoming waste, and
  • 200,000 gallons of water.

How? They removed trays from the dining halls. They removed convenience, and judging from the article it wasn’t a popular solution. But its makes a lot of sense.

If you drive to the supermarket, grab a big shopping cart, and have a lift to carry your groceries from car to home, then it is very easy to just pile unnecessary food into your life. If you have to think about how you are going to carry it all to the car and into your home, you probably make different choices.

I like that one simple decision has changed how an entire community consumes. It would be interesting to see if that same choice also helped students maintain weight. I mean, if not using a tray helps that freshman not gain infamous 15 pounds that many do gain in the first term, wouldn’t they willingly embrace the idea?

If the same could be said about using smaller shopping carts to lose weight, would people be more willing to embrace a small change?


7 thoughts on “One way to reduce food waste: Campus Style

  1. It really is amazing the waste and is shown so well in your illustration. I agree about having a bit of inconvenience. You mentioned smaller shopping carts, but I WALK to the grocery store EVERYDAY. I can only carry a little home at a time, but the food is fresher, I get exercise, and I NEVER buy what I don’t need. I wonder if many others do this? The local grocery store is a bit over four blocks away, so it is no big deal.

    • We use to live like that in Montreal and Japan. But in Los Angeles, a car is needed most of the time since the stores do not often provide goods in easy to bike/walk sizes. They want us to buy. If we put pressure on the groceries, they may start changing how they offer goods and services.

  2. Convenience and pleasure (a/k/a/ leisure) are two things that ramp up waste – as well as obesity and general disconnectedness – in this country. It’s amazing to me what the simple act of eliminating CONTAINERS (take out, grocery, Dad’s and kids’ lunches away from home) from my life has required additional time and thought. Now that I’m used to it and have a plan/routine, it’s much simpler. But in the beginning, it was madness!!

    Change is difficult, which is why the majority of people do not start it themselves. Even when change like that cafeteria one is forced upon them, it is then only embraced after quite some time, once the benefit of their efforts are more clear with hindsight. By then, they’ve adjusted and the ah-hah moment is at hand.

    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

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