Environmentality: The Freshman 142

Let’s shift discussion from college weight gain to college food waste

The infamous Freshman 15 haunts the minds of new college students across the nation. However, freshmen, and all college students in general, need to direct their attention to a far more crucial yet practically never discussed issue: food waste.  Each college student wastes approximately 142 pounds of food every school year.  With over 20 million students comprising the college student demographic, 2,840,000,000 pounds of food end up wasted.  

Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility (SPEAR) staged their Scrape Your Plate Day recently and recorded 509 pounds of food waste for the day at Commons alone.

VU Dining handles all the food waste students create with a few unique machines.  I spoke with Julie Crider, the marketing and communications manager for VU Dining, about Vanderbilt’s efforts to reduce food waste.

“Vanderbilt’s main dining facility, Rand Dining, uses an ORCA anaerobic digester to digest all back-of-house food waste into water,” she said. Commons, on the other hand, “has a pulper built in to prevent food waste from entering the sewer system.”  

Moreover, Vanderbilt has just implemented a compost pilot program for Commons so all the food waste generated by both staff and students gets redirected from landfills to a more sustainable use.  By the end of the year, all the major dining halls should have compost collection up and running.

VU Dining’s efforts are admirable, but processing and composting the food waste will never be as sustainable as simply reducing the waste to begin with.  For the hour I worked at Scrape Your Plate Day, I was baffled to see students throw away entire portions of uneaten food.  Although simple, the answer to food waste really is to not get more food than you are going to eat. So let’s forget about the Freshman 15 and focus on the bigger issue that affects not only ourselves but also our planet: the Freshman 142.