This Fall, UW Recycling staff once again guest-taught students in the Nutritional Sciences 302 Food Systems class - led by faculty members Yona Sipos and Jennifer Otten - regarding the composting process and how to sort compostable materials on campus. The students were then given an assignment to think about ways the University of Washington could reduce food waste.
We previously published a selection of student ideas after the Spring 2019 class. We've included a selection of the student thoughts from this Fall's course below:
One idea the University of Washington could do to reduce food waste is to paint the compost bins on campus/decorate the compost bins on campus with colorful pictures of what items of food or packaging are allowed into the bins. By making the compost bins more salient, this will catch many students, visitors and faculties eyes, and possibly would make them want to use the bins more. An example of this is in an Australian airport where they painted a mural on the staircase in order to entice people to use the stairs more often, and the percentage of the people who took the stairs increased after the mural was painted. When things are more eye catching, colorful or interesting to look at, people are more likely to want to use them. Catching people’s eyes on campus will encourage them to stop, look and learn about compost and encourages them to also use it more in order to reduce food waste.
My recommendation to prevent food waste at UW is to create a program where volunteers can take part in making a meal kit for people to buy. The box would have main ingredients to make dinner for the night. For example, if someone wants to make tacos the box would contain some lettuce, tomato, cheese, and tortillas. They could make these boxes out of produce that is not being bought, or is expiring within the next week, at the district market or any other store on campus. Another option could be to put the produce that is not aesthetically pleasing from the CUH, and other UW Farms, in the meal kits. The purpose would be to promote healthy eating habits, and the reduction of food waste.
To reduce food waste, UW could use smaller plates in dining areas to reduce the amount of food each person takes. Commonly with big plates, people feel the urge to fill up the entire plate, and often times they take too much food for them to finish, and end up throwing the rest of it away. With smaller plates, people are less likely to waste food and instead be able to finish all the food they put on their plate. Ultimately, reducing the size of plates would push people in the right direction of only taking what they will eat.