By Benjamin Land
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food outpaces other solid waste items in the amount that reaches landfills and incinerators. This food isn’t spoiled or past its expiration date, but healthy food that simply hasn’t been eaten. To further emphasize the waste, the EPA stated that in 2012, more than 36 million tons of food waste was created. However, only five percent of that was actually used for composting. With this figure in mind, and even more data gleaned in recent years, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the Think.Eat.Save Student Challenge.
Open to secondary schools and universities, the Think.Eat. Save Student Challenge hopes to motivate students from multiple grade levels and around the world to completely understand the severity of food waste. To accomplish this, the challenge has students create projects to see how much waste they produce and the subsequent effect this has on not only the economy, but also the environment. And it is the environment that is the most affected by food waste.
The UNEP reported that around one-third of all produced food winds up lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. Half of this number is attributed to retailers and consumers who operate and live in industrialized areas discarding food that is still edible.
By participating in the challenge, students will find themselves among activists and companies addressing the issue of food waste. For example, thefoodservicecompanySodexohas introduced “tray-less cafeterias” to about half of the college campuses they wholesale to. This move has reduced Sodexo’s food waste percentage by approximately 30 percent. Another example is activist Rob Greenfield who has been traveling across America eating only what he can find in dumpsters. So far, he’s found an entire watermelon, a bottle of Chardonnay, marshmallows, and other edible food items on his challenge.
Lucita Jasmin, Greenfield’s campaign manager said, “Through the students, we hope to encourage a more conscious attitude toward food planning, preparation, storage and consumption in schools […] Students are also an effective entry point to their families and households which are also another major source of food waste, and where there is great opportunity for positive change.”
To participate in the challenge, go to www.thinkeatsave.org/ studentchallenge
Entries must be submitted by Nov. 16.