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Managing Food Waste on Campus

by Jocelyn Visnov & Zoe DeFazio, Asst. Production Editor & Staff Writer

According to RESET.org, nearly one-third of food produced for human consumption worldwide eventually becomes food waste. Between the process of growing, harvesting, producing, and transporting food, there is a significant amount of waste behind the food that gets thrown away, even at Manhattan College.

Mary Stahl, an environmental science major, is an active participant when being environmentally friendly. She is concise about how much waste she produces and has used her experience to the proper advantage on discussing how MC can potentially do better.

The main concern involving waste seems more to be about how much students produce rather than how much the dining facilities do.

“Manhattan College currently has no way for students and faculty to choose sustainable waste disposal options,” Stahl wrote in an email to The Quadrangle. “The school only recycles major items from facilities, nothing from the residence halls! When planning Sustainable Food Week last semester, I tried very hard to get dining to take part in our composting efforts. Although they did donate some coffee grounds from Starbucks, college campuses have a unique opportunity to be a more closed-loop system and set high standards for sustainability which we are extremely lacking!”

Stahl then went on to say just exactly how MC can be more mindful of waste and certain ways students and faculty can help campus be more enlightened about food waste and how to discard it.

“I think we need to reframe how we understand food waste as students and as members of the college community,” Stahl wrote. “It’s not realistic to have just open bins for compost in the residence halls or across campus. But only using the argument of compost being smelly or attracting pests deters from the reality that we can compost on campus. We are a small school, which has a lot more positives when considering the leadership roles students can really take and guide change across our campus with.”

The question of how much do Manhattan College students recycle and take part in discarding waste is still up in the air. There are ways MC students can potentially be more environmentally friendly when it comes to food waste.

Environmental science major, Nina Björkman, advises students to internally ask questions regarding recycling to better themselves and the environment campus creates.

“I think if we start to ask questions about it most of us will realize that we could do a lot better – right now I feel like it’s not very talked about, and the school isn’t exactly bragging about it’s trash handling system either so to find out what we do with our waste/trash requires people to ask questions and do some research.”

Björkman suggests a way for students to be more conscious of waste and put it to good use.

“I would love for the school to start composting, either by its own program or by having a company picking up the organic waste, because that would make a big change in the amount of trash that we generate here at MC,” Björkman said.

Björkman has taken the initiative to take matters into her own hands and help MC with food waste.

“I am considering starting up a small composting project in OV for the fall to see how that would work,” Björkman said.

Composting appears to be the common theme among how Manhattan can discard food waste in a healthy, environmentally conscious manner. The system that could be created regarding composting bins can be beneficial to students, especially those who are environmentally friendly and those who are an environmental studies major.

Until the college can implement a composting system, Björkman suggests ways for students to be more aware of waste.

“Don’t throw out food, try to minimize single-use items etc. I know this is especially hard during covid, but there is always something we can do. I use my own water bottle and utensils, for example,” Björkman said.

Julian Silverman, professor of chemistry and environmental science, gave some insight on the issue. While oftentimes being safe and practicing sustainability come hand in hand, this is not necessarily the case during a global pandemic.

“So, one part to think about is that we’re in this balance of safety and sustainability right now right safety is more important, arguably, but we’re going to shift hopefully back to the other side,” Silverman said.

Having worked closely with various environmentally conscious organizations, Silverman said about various environmental efforts around food waste on campus.

“The rooftop garden on the garage does and has implemented some of the compost that’s been generated,” he said. “One of the challenges is that every student on campus did it, there would be way too much right so we need to look for outlets to use that kind of food waste differently.”

In addition, Silverman mentioned that the partnership with Aramark has led to new conversations on waste management around campus dining.

“Aramark joined us really this last year and there’s been lots of stuff going on and they’re also a much bigger company than those of years past,” he said. “And so we’ve been in conversation with peo- ple on their energy side and people more on the Facilities and Planning side.”

Silverman also works with students who are in the pro- cess of collecting data to fur- ther address the issue of food waste on campus.

“One thing that we’re work- ing on cures specifically is, is just getting numbers, getting the number of pounds of waste a year,” he said.

Food waste is just one facet of waste and sustainability being addressed on campus. For those looking to further research this problem, Silverman suggests expressing interest and staying determined and vocal about the issues which are most important to you.

“You know we’ve had pro- grams on campus that have tried to address this before, there are old composters I think by Leo, that are just sit- ting there,” he said. “But the biggest challenge is you know students are our greatest motivator, but you also need to know you guys graduate in four years so we need to make sure that there’s a club or an organization that’s really promoting this.”

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