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K-State Today

April 18, 2016

Earth Day Week 2016: Reducing food waste

Submitted by Kelly Whitehair

In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, the K-State Recycling Committee shares sustainable efforts on campus from campus departments throughout the week to celebrate those efforts and challenge K-Staters to continue to do more for the environment.

Do you remember the old saying, "Take what you want, but eat what you take?" While you don't have to sit at the table until you clean your plate, we do hope that you will pause and think about the significance of your actions as you scrape that food into the garbage.

Over the course of the academic year, thousands of pounds of uneaten food gets left on plates and disposed of on campus. While some of this waste may be inedible portions of food — i.e. apple rinds, banana peels, chicken bones, etc. — much of it is consumable. This leads to wasted money, utilities, labor, fuel and other resources. Not to mention the harm this organic waste has on the environment as it degrades in the landfill.

Housing and Dining Services continually aims to reduce the amount of food products that ultimately end up in our waste stream.

• Our team spreads the word about waste and sustainability via table tents, programming and student employee involvement.

• We encourage students to take a limited amount of food on the initial trip through the lines. Students are allowed to return for more if needed, but this style of service generally reduces edible food waste on plates due to having "eyes bigger than our stomachs."

• Employee training covers topics that assist in getting the most out of our food products during planning, preparation, cooking, service and follow through.

• We purchase many of our products from Kansas vendors including both Weber meats and Call Hall dairy. This reduces the time frame between production and service, allowing for more accurate planning and use.

• Various graduate research projects are completed in our facilities focusing on food waste and methods of reduction.

Although we try to limit the food waste that comes out of the dining centers, we do create some that is prime material to be composted — i.e. vegetable peelings, rinds, etc. Housing and Dining Services, in coordination with the agronomy department, the Student Farm and the Division of Facilities developed a process in 2008 for the transport of compostable food waste to the campus composting facility. This partnership has diverted thousands of pounds of food waste from the landfill. And, in turn, provided tons of nutrient-rich compost for the campus community.

Each and every one of us plays a role in maintaining our resources and reducing our waste. Food waste is a great place to start, because we all eat and we can all make a difference.

So, students, faculty and staff … what can you do in your department or at home to make a difference?

Learn more about K-State's Housing and Dining Services sustainability efforts online

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