On February 16th and 23rd we hosted Weigh the Waste during a one hour lunch period in both Sargent Dining Hall and Allison Dining Hall.
The results are in and the winner is Sargent Dining Hall! Sargent had 82.18 total pounds of waste, for an average of .28 pounds per person. Sargents waste consisted of 57% large food scraps, 27% liquids, 13.5% inedible food scraps and paper and 2.5 % non-compostable items. In contrast Allison dining hall had a total of 95 pounds of waste for .51 pounds of waste per person. Allison Dining Hall consisted of 28% large food scraps, 32% liquids, 8% inedible food scraps and paper and 32% non-compostable. For detailed Weigh the Waste results please visit Sargent or Allison.
It’s important to note that Allison Dining Hall hosts the kosher station which uses disposable plates, which did add to their total non- compostable waste. Additionally, on the day Weigh the Waste was conducted Allison Dining Hall was serving meat with bones, which are also non-compostable and affected the distribution of waste across all of the categories.
The four categories we use for sorting waste during Weigh The Waste are: liquids, large food scraps, inedible food scraps and paper and non-compostable goods. Categories such as liquids, large food scraps and inedible food scraps and paper are composted when you send these items back on the dish return, but non-compostable goods- like tea packets with staples or cracker wrappers are not. We wanted to distinguish between large food scraps and items like napkins and banana peels to focus students on where we can all best reduce our waste in dining. Fruit peels and napkins in the dining halls are the perfect example of items to compost and have a minimal impact on our waste overall. However, full plates of food in the “large food scraps” show us an opportunity for waste reduction. 28% of Allison Dining Halls food waste and 57% of Sargent Dining Halls food waste was made up of large food scraps! Rather than having this uneaten food end up in the compost bin, we all have an opportunity to be more mindful of what we are loading on to our plates! All untouched food from the dining halls is recovered daily by Northwestern’s Campus Kitchens program and goes towards feeding our Evanston community. Remember when you are going through the dining halls to be mindful of your portion sizes! For helpful hints on how you can help reduce food waste click here and for healthy choices made easy, students can visit our mindful website!
The waste totals for Weigh the Waste were comparable to our past Weigh the Waste data from previous years, but sustainNU and Northwestern Dining are committed to seeing these numbers gradually decline. Northwestern Dining along with sustainNU and various student group volunteers will be hosting Weigh the Waste again this April & May. As more awareness is created we hope to see a reduction in our waste. We surveyed some students as they left the dining halls, and 46.7% of students at Sargent said they would take less food in general going forward. We take this as a good sign and hope to see the results soon!
If you have additional feedback on Weigh the Waste please let us know here: https://goo.gl/forms/i2CcLERTyx9darbE2