ECOPC Measures Food Waste in Ray
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.
Ray Composting: How Much Waste Have We Diverted from Landfills?
After many years of trying to implement composting on campus, ECOPC was finally able to bring composting to Raymond Dining Hall last spring, and the program has since extended to Alumni over summer. This has had a substantial impact on decreasing our on-campus environmental impact, specifically in the area of food waste. From April 2022 through September 2022, we had already composted about 68.2 tons of food waste in Raymond Dining Hall alone. Since extending the program to Alumni over the summer, 3.3 tons of food in Alumni have been composted instead of being brought to landfills. This number accounts for just the months of August and September, bringing the total to 71.5 tons of food waste that we have diverted from landfills.
This is not a small number. Composting will have a significant positive effect on our planet. This is a huge step in starting to take environmental issues seriously at PC. There is still a lot to be done in terms of sustainability on campus, but we are definitely moving in the right direction. Hopefully this will open the door for even greater and more impactful sustainability projects at PC.
Over one third of food is wasted around the world, and it’s estimated that people waste one billion tons of food annually. This is a huge waste of the water and resources that go into producing this food. Also, with food decomposition in landfills being responsible for up to 10 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions, food waste has devastating consequences in terms of climate change.
With Thanksgiving approaching, it’s important to keep this in mind. However, reducing our food waste is something that we should focus on year-round given its environmental impact.
Embracing the Entrepreneurial Spirit: PC Students Win Big East Startup Challenge
by Hannah Langley ’21
Each year, students from Providence College and other schools within the Big East Conference are invited to participate in the Big East Startup Challenge, in which students can create teams to propose product ideas to an experienced panel of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and Big East alumni.
After competing against 10 other teams, PC students Jacqueline Ryan ’21, Owen Delaney ’22, and Faith Linscott ’21 took home the first-place prize for “UMeal,” an app that allows college students to create their own meal kits at their dining halls based on their preferences. Students can then pick up these kits to make their own meals back in their dorms, suites, apartments, or homes.
Delaney, a finance major and co-president of the entrepreneurship society, began developing UMeal with three other students during last year’s Big East Startup Challenge, but he and his teammates were never able to complete their idea. As Delaney explained, last year’s competition was cut short because of COVID-19, but he partnered with Linscott and Ryan this year to complete the work he and his previous teammates started. “Although my teammates from last year were unable to return,” Delaney explained, “I was lucky enough to be paired with Faith Linscott and Jackie Ryan and we worked great together.”
Linscott, a psychology major, and Ryan, a history major, both have business and innovation minors, which is how they got involved with the challenge. Students with the business and innovation minor at PC are required to take a capstone their senior year in which they use their skill sets to make a mock entrepreneurial business, making this challenge a great fit for Linscott and Ryan. “I loved working on UMeal because I felt like a real entrepreneur,” said Ryan.
Their capstone professor, Dr. Eric Sung, associate professor of photography and director of the minor, recommended the two take on this project with Delaney. Megan A. Chang, assistant professor of voice and diction in the department of theatre, dance, and film; Rebeka Mazzone, a member of the adjunct faculty in finance; Dr. Kathleen A. Cornely, professor of chemistry and biochemistry; and alumni Paul Bachman ’90, Mark Ruggeri ’93, and Christopher Walker ’86 were also involved with the group in various ways.
For the competition, the students developed a prototype for the UMeal app and created a five-minute video about the product, which was then judged by a panel of professionals. With the help of Providence College Television, the group was able to create what they considered to be a fantastic video. “We were extremely lucky to have PCTV join us and help us create an incredible video,” said Delaney. “They took our ideas and script and turned it into a piece of art.”
The team had a great time working on this project together, saying that they learned a lot through the process. “Participating in the competition was fun and educational,” said Linscott. “A key takeaway from the competition is that it takes a cohesive team effort to create a presentation to be proud of; I am happy about all the hard work everybody put in and proud of the result.
Delaney also commented that despite many obstacles along the way, the team was able to persevere. “During the crucial weeks leading up to the competition, me and Jackie both got COVID-19,” he said. “However, we persevered and were able to get a lot done over our Zoom meetings and do some filming on our own in quarantine.”
Delaney also hopes that this competition will inspire others, like himself, who have an interest in entrepreneurship. “I hope that winning this competition inspired other people just like me to continue your passion of entrepreneurship even if it is not what you officially study in school,” he said.
The teammates thanked one another, their faculty advisors, PCTV, alumni mentors, and all others who helped them in the process. “I believe that we were so successful because of the support we received from such passionate people,” said Ryan.
The team hopes that this is not the end for UMeal, and they are excited to see what the future holds for their startup.