This year’s “Weigh the Waste” campaign has been aimed at increasing awareness and prompting behavioral changes to ultimately result in less food waste. In addition to daily recoverings of leftover food, the Food Recovery Network (FRN) hosts a campaign asking students to throw their uneaten food into a waste bin in order to weigh it.
Since the club began holding the campaign in the spring of 2016, senior and FRN member Meryl Davis has noticed patterns in the amount of waste produced, as well as student behaviors.
“In the beginning of the week you always see a lot of pounds wasted and I’m hoping, by Friday that waste amount will go down a little bit,” she said.
On Wednesday night, 92.7 pounds of food waste were collected. Until then, the amount of food waste had been on a steady decrease, starting at 75.8 pounds during lunch on Monday. On Wednesday, 47.8 pounds were collected at lunch.
While the amount of food waste tends to decrease as the week progresses, Davis is concerned that this is more likely due to a fear or shame, rather than a desire to change habit. Not intending to shame anyone into taking less food, Davis hopes instead to merely raise awareness.
“That is something that, for two and a half years, we’ve tried to combat in terms of we’re not here to make you guilty for that,” Davis said. “I think we’ve said every time we’ve done this event, it is really honestly truly to make you think. And if that thinking is something that is hard to confront then maybe we need to do more talking about it.”
Director of Sustainability Debbie Steinberg mentioned that about a quarter of the waste in our landfills is food waste, which can be decreased through a change in the choices we make. Steinberg, however, acknowledges that this is not an easy change, and feels that education is the most effective solution.
“I think it’s hard because that’s behavior change,” Steinberg said. “We have to really ask people to change the way they do things and this is just a way to get people to start thinking about it.”
One of the problems Steinberg sees, specifically in environments like Knox, is that students may not think about the cost consequences of their food waste. She feels it is easy to forget about the value of food when individuals are not paying for it.
“In essence you guys are swiping so you’re not thinking about the cost that goes into the food, it’s not a direct relation,” Steinberg said.
Davis agrees that this way of thinking contributes to the amount of food waste at Knox, specifically. She feels that thinking about the financial impacts of food waste has helped her be more conscientious of how she buys food.
“I do think that money tied to food means that people are thinking more about it,” she said. “I’m off board now so I’m thinking a lot more about the dollars that I’m putting into the meals. If I’m wasting a whole head of broccoli and cauliflower … that’s eight dollars, five dollars of food that I’ve just thrown down the drain.”
Steinberg acknowledges the fact that financial impacts may motivate individuals to think about food waste more than the environmental consequences. While this may not be preferable, she feels that any way to motivate individuals to be more conscious about the environment is better than nothing.
“I’ve always been realistic in the sense that not everyone’s gonna be as passionate [about the environment] as I am,” Steinberg said. “And I’ve always really believed that you often have to find the value motivators in order to talk people into it.”
Davis finds solace in her agency to be able improve our environment. She wants to instill this value into other people, showing them that they have the ability to make individual changes.
“We often hear how shitty the situation is right now — environmentally, socially, politically, whatever — but the fact that you can control how much waste you can put into a landfill is so empowering,” Davis said.