Session Notes, Reduced

In addition to witnessing my first buffet outage, I actually learned a thing or two at yesterday’s AASHE conference.

In a session called “Food, Dining and Compost,” I heard folks from the University of British Columbia and the University of Washington talk about their composting programs. First, good on them for composting.

But my main thought was why their sustainability efforts don’t include reducing waste, too. Another panelist, Andrew Shakman of LeanPath, raised the topic, but he was the only one to mention it.

The 3 R's (x 3). Photo by Leo Reynolds (via Creative Commons)LeanPath is in the business of measuring and analyzing food waste to assist reduction (via their ValuWaste system), so it makes sense that Shakman raised the topic. What shocked me is that nobody else did.

Isn’t it: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? Well, the schools are only doing the last part. (The schools have moved toward compostable plates, cups and cutlery because theft–via students’ sticky fingers–made reusable items too costly.)

I asked if either of the schools had made efforts to reduce food waste, and one of the schools said that they do a food waste weighing once a semester. Still, for institutions that clearly care and are trying to be sustainable and trim their carbon footprint, why not make more of an effort to cut food waste?

I have my theory, but I’m curious to hear yours. From your perspective, are folks trying to reduce food waste? Why or why not?

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2 Comments

  1. Posted November 12, 2008 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I get frustrated with that a lot. Like with the whole green thing, I find it annoying when people act like the only way to save the planet is to come up with a green energy source, when really, a great option is to quit wasting/using so much of it.

    I think composting is a great idea for when food waste can’t be avoided, or for stuff that’s inedible(egg shells), but I think it needs to be done in conjunction with some work towards reducing food waste in the first place.

  2. Posted November 13, 2008 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    First of all, I love this bloggosphere. It rocks. I actually developed a trifold pamphlet for my organization using images and information provided by you guys.

    I work with CHOW, the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse of Broome County, in Binghamton, NY. I’m actually an Americorps employee here, and I used to be homeless. I spent a number of years Hitchhiking around the country, and spent a bunch of time with the Rainbows living in the woods, and organizing kitchens in the woods around dumpster-diving and other guerrilla food recovery techniques. Now, I’m on the up and up.

    Part of my job is volunteer recruitment, and the other part (thus far) is increasing and improving our food rescue and recovery operations. We currently rescue about 1 million pounds of food a year (that’s half of what we distribute each year), and distribute it to over 28 agencies in our county. It’s truly an amazing organization with some very thoughtful people working here.

    Now, I’m sure that many people out there have college campusses whose dining services are under the control of Sodex Ho. They do all kinds of stuff with CHOW, like catering our promotions and events–even going so far as to organize some themselves–and they donate their surplus food to us at the end of each semester, and before each break as well. They also compost and recycle unused food, and go so far as to claim the title for SUNY Binghamton as of one of the most green dining services in New York State. Cool, right?

    Well, everyone I have gone to thus far, with Sodex Ho, local restaurants, and supermarkets make the claim that they “don’t have any waste,” which is ridiculous to me. So, we’re seeing a rise in the need amongst our agencies and I’m looking to move quickly on recovering more food before the wintertime, yet I’m encountering this mantra of “we don’t waste,” everywhere I go.

    That being said, I want to thank you for the produce project. I think that what I will do is to go into the markets and ask to work with them for a day to assess their waste stream, and help them bring it under control and to donate the surplus to us.

    Something else you all might consider broadcasting through your blogs, is the Good Semaritan Food Donation Act (1996), and Enhanced Tax Deduction for Food Donation–two tools I have been using to talk up the idea of food rescue and recovery.

    Thank you for this food waste tracking system though, I think I will add it to my repetoire of resources for businesses.

    Peace and Love,
    Dan

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