Sunday, October 21

Jonathan Friedland: Reducing food waste at dining halls key to greater sustainability


(Kelly Brennan/Daily Bruin senior staff)

(Kelly Brennan/Daily Bruin senior staff)


UCLA has some of the best college food in the country, but 50 tons of it is thrown out every month.

In other words, UCLA wastes about two-thirds the weight of the retired Space Shuttle in food monthly. By the end of each academic year, UCLA has enough food left over to manufacture five space shuttles just judging by their respective weights.

To fix this, UCLA Housing has recently attempted to reduce food spoilage by splitting up side orders from the main dish so students can decline taking the side. It also has begun composting all the food wasted in the dining halls to reduce the amount of waste directed to landfills.

These are effective measures, but more can be done to further reduce the food waste at UCLA and it’s not all on UCLA Housing to fix this problem. UCLA students should minimize food waste by only taking one or two plates at a time and do their part to prevent overharvesting and the environmentally unsustainable demand for food.

Additionally, UCLA should adopt programs that make students empathize with their generous food situation and think about the consequences of food waste.

There are already models available that UCLA Housing could use to accomplish this. For example, Princeton University installed a massive bin where students dumped their food waste for one week and saw it rising quickly. The bin was then weighed and displayed to students, encouraging them to be conscious of their eating habits.

Making people aware of their waste diminishes food waste. As a study published in 2013 by Reuters Health found, brief anti-waste slogans reduced food waste by 15 percent at universities. Images and phrases that force people to think about food waste while they’re eating are proven to be effective.

If Princeton University’s results translate to UCLA, the university could save 7.5 tons of food per month.

UCLA Dining could also reduce their serving sizes, most prominently at the De Neve Dining Hall. For instance, distributing two decently sized pancakes often results in one of them being wasted by students who are grabbing plenty of other food as well. Also, De Neve should split up the bacon, eggs and hash browns plate into three smaller plates. Students will be able to grab what they want without feeling as if they’re obstructing the line by placing a personal order.

It’s possible that more plates equates with more water used to clean dishes, which is arguably harmful in the midst of California’s drought. However, the water used to wash more, but smaller dishes should be comparable to the current amount of water used because the total surface area being cleaned shouldn’t increase drastically. The potential waste reduction is well worth it.

Food waste isn’t just a problem at UCLA, but an American one in general. Thirty-one percent of American food goes uneaten. If food waste were reduced, it would greatly aid future environmental sustainability, an issue millennials will be directly affected by. A study from Potsdam Institute For Climate Impact Research states that up to 14 percent of farming-related emissions could be cut in 2050 by “better management of food utilisation and distribution.”

Furthermore, farming-related emissions come in various forms detrimental to the environment. They produce 35 percent of the world’s methane emissions, lead to immense deforestation and account for nearly 70 percent of the world’s fresh water supply. If UCLA students minimized their food waste, it would aid the environment more than any other way the university can.

Wasted food also negatively impacts the malnourished population. For instance, a study done by the U.N. reveals, that if food waste were cut by 25 percent it would be enough to feed the entire starving population. The rise of food production is unmaintainable, as estimates suggest that by 2050 food will have to be produced at a rate 60 percent higher than it was produced in 2005 to feed the world’s growing population.

Universities have the potential to play a major role in reducing this habit in students’ adult lives. UCLA should make students aware of the amount of food they’re wasting, while also splitting up entrees further.

Students and UCLA Housing should work together to stop wasting gourmet meals people at other schools can only dream about.

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  • DJ

    Nice article!