Last Monday, you may have noticed something different at the Ray dish return. On Nov. 21, ECOPC hosted their annual Clean Plate Challenge. For two hours during lunchtime, volunteers from the club set up a table at the dish return area in Raymond Dining Hall and asked students to discard the leftover food from their plates into a tray which sat on a scale. The food waste was weighed and then collected in a bin for composting. The volunteers measured a total of 67.18 pounds of food waste during the two hours.
“Because people were already home for Thanksgiving, this number doesn’t even account for them,” said Sam Dietel ’23, an ECOPC executive board member. “There is likely a greater amount of food waste taking place in the dining hall than was calculated.”
The project was intended to communicate to Sodexo how much food is wasted in Ray and to raise awareness about the problem of food waste. The club displayed a poster with facts about food waste, including that 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are from food waste alone, 1/3 of produced food is wasted, 870 million people could be fed with just 1/4 of our wasted food, the U.S. alone wastes over 100 billion tons of food every year, and $1 trillion is lost globally each year from food waste. However, the event was not intended to shame students for the amount of food left on their plates.
“I just thought it was crazy how I saw multiple people with full slices of pizza and entire plates of food that they did not eat,” said Maggie Ritchie ’25, an ECOPC member who volunteered at the event. “I initially thought the food waste was going to come from large portion sizes given out by the workers, but a lot of the food waste was from the stations where people can pick how much they want, so I think students need to be more aware of the [amount of] food they are taking.”
“A lot of people don’t think about how food waste is a problem beyond just wasted food,” said Kaelin Ferland ’23, co-president of ECOPC. “It’s also an issue in terms of greenhouse gas emissions because food decomposition releases methane, which is four times stronger than carbon dioxide. Many people also don’t consider how the resources like water that went into producing the food are also wasted.”
A week prior, on Nov. 14, ECOPC hosted speaker Rose Forrest, Sustainability Coordinator at Sodexo (and chef). Students at the event expressed concerns about Sodexo’s portion sizes. Many worry they are wasting food and wasting their Friar Bucks. Forrest expressed commitment to creating a more sustainable dining program at PC.
As the event is repeated annually, ECOPC hopes to initiate such change, as they continue to collaborate with Sodexo to come up with sustainable solutions in our dining halls.