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Reducing Food Waste on Campus | Innovative Ways Colleges and Universities are Minimizing Carbon Footprints

The EPA estimated that in 2015 in the United States, more food reached landfills and combustion facilities than any other single material in our everyday trash, at 22 percent of the amount landfilled and at 22 percent of the amount combusted with energy recovery. Reducing food waste will help the United States address climate change, as 20 percent of total U.S. methane emissions come from landfills.

As an individual it’s easy to work to reduce food waste and minimize your carbon footprint. Eating more plant-based meals, only buying/ordering what you will eat, shopping in bulk and composting food scraps can help make a difference. It’s much more challenging for colleges and universities that are providing food to large amounts of people in dining halls and other on-campus events.

The Sierra Club recently announced its annual Coolest Schools list of the greenest colleges and universities in North America and reducing food waste on campus is a priority for all who made the list. All of the colleges and universities on the list have implemented trayless dining in dining halls. This encourages diners to take only what they will eat and also saves on energy required to wash trays. Other initiatives include composting, eliminating single use plastics and food diversion programs.

Colorado State University took the number nine spot on the list for a number of reasons including food waste reduction on campus. Through the school’s “Ram Food Recovery,” program, after a catered event when there is a significant amount of food left over, those who have signed up to receive Ram Food Recovery texts will be notified when and where the leftovers can be picked up.  While not on this year’s list, the University of Oregon has a similar program called “The Ducks Leftover Textover.” People taking advantage of these programs are encouraged to bring their own reusable food containers.

Other universities on the list with food diversion programs include #18 Santa Clara University where twice a week leftover food is picked up from dining services and events and delivered to a soup kitchen in San Jose; #16 ranked University of California, Berkeley which recovers food for food insecure students; #12 ranked Dickinson College which allows dining hall patrons to choose their own serving sizes with their “Pick Your Portions” program; #2 ranked University of California, Irvine which is turning organics into electricity and #11 ranked Sterling University which was ranked #1 in the  Sustainable Food and Dining category. Sterling University students grow about 20 percent of food served on campus.

Tenth ranked Arizona State’s Sun Devil Dining’s goal is to achieve Zero Waste dining in their facilities where 90% of waste is diverted from the landfill.  All used fryer oil is recycled, food and paper napkins are composted.  Customers are given discounts if they bring their own reusable drinkware. At the Downtown Phoenix campus, customers can use reusable to-go containers. Through a partnership with Arizonan’s for Children, which works to alleviate hardships for children in foster care, food from Sun Devil Dining coffee, retail and catering locations is collected three times per week and distributed to children in need.

We are fortunate to call many of schools on this year’s Coolest Schools list our customers and we know many others that didn’t made the list but are also doing amazing things to minimize food waste. Keep up the good work!