The Real Weight of Campus Food Waste

It’s estimated that the average American throws away 20 pounds of food waste a month – that’s about the weight of a car tire.  But how much does the average student waste? To get an idea, the NC State Stewards went to Fountain Dining Hall to weigh the waste.

As students finished dinner and returned their plates, the Stewards scraped all the food waste into a trash can and used a scale to weigh the waste.



Over the course of two hours, they saw clean plates like this:



Full plates like this:



And lots of half-eaten desserts.



The two-hour total was 138 pounds of food waste produced by 732 people. At 3 ounces per person, that’s less than a February 2012 waste audit in Fountain Dining Hall when the average waste per person was 3.73 ounces. But over the course of a month, even that 3-ounce rate would total 5.6 pounds of food waste per person at dinner alone.

So how can you help limit campus food waste in dining halls?  Here are a couple of easy tips. Plan to make two trips through the buffet line. On your first plate put only the food you know you can eat, including small portions of any new menu items you’d like to try. Then, once you’ve eaten your first plate, go back for seconds if you’re still hungry. We timed that it takes less than a minute to walk from the average table in the dining hall to the buffet line. Plus, in walking to and from the buffet line you’ll add another 100+ steps to your day, burning a few more calories.

These simple waste-saving tips can go a long way in reducing the amount of food waste, so give it a try!

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