Dining Hall Waste Reduction: Are We Doing Enough?


While we’re pleased to announce the completion of our third Weigh the Waste event of the year, our progress in reducing dining hall food waste remains ambiguous.

Over the span of two lunch periods, 668 Sargent visitors produced 173 pounds of waste. (Curious as to what weighs 173 pounds?)

While on Wednesday, we saw a 0.02 pound reduction in average waste per person (compared to the events last quarter), on Thursday, the average waste per person increased by 0.08 pound.

That averages to 0.26 pound of waste per person, which is the same as the average waste per person last quarter.

As a Sustainability Intern, I view the insignificant change in dining hall waste this year as a call to what more intensive and frequent waste-reduction initiatives are needed.

We may have been slow to make progress so far, but with each event, more and more students become aware of what can be done! For example, over 2/3rds of students we surveyed had never been present at a Weigh the Waste event before; as we continue to spread awareness of how significant dining hall food waste is, I’m sure we can make progress towards reducing it!

Furthermore, I’m excited about the ideas and suggestions received from 90 diners surveyed during the event. Northwestern Dining highly values this student feedback, and in the upcoming months, we will be making strong efforts to make progress by…

  • Making sure the menu online is updated, accurate, and easy to access
  • Paying more attention to a specific diners’ desires, including smaller portions and ingredients of preference
  • Providing food samples
  • Reducing the waiting times (to encourage students to go back for more later)

While there’s still room for improvement, we are excited to see how awareness of dining hall food waste is clearly spreading across campus.

Let’s stay mindful of our food waste and aim to do better with the next Weigh the Waste event this quarter!


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