More taste, less waste: Taste Not Waste campaign shows progress

Every year, Concordia’s Taste Not Waste campaign makes progress toward its goal of reducing food waste in Concordia’s Anderson Commons. But with the arrival of around 500 freshmen each fall, progress is set back by as much as 10%.

This year, for the first time in the movement’s history, progress was made instead of lost.

Taste Not Waste is a campaign at Concordia that strives to increase awareness around the issue of food waste in students and staff alike. In 2016, Taste Not Waste declared its goal to help reduce food waste in Anderson Commons by 50% by the year 2020.

Joan Kopperud, co-leader of Taste Not Waste, attributes this year’s success to the
exposure of the initiative to first-year students during orientation. According to Kopperud, Concordia senior Tate Hovland deserves much of the credit for this exposure. One of the students involved in creating Taste Not Waste, Hovland has been an advocate for it since his freshman year at Concordia. Participating in the initiative influenced the way Hovland thought of food waste not only on a national level, but in his personal life as well.

“Helping out with plate waste studies kept me mindful of my practices and helped me
advocate for the group as a whole,” Hovland said.

He viewed his position as the 2019 Orientation Chair as an opportunity to aid in raising awareness about the severity of food waste. Hovland not only formulated the idea to put the campaign’s logo on t-shirts worn by orientation leaders, but also took part in the composition of a video on the topic of food waste, which was shown to every orientation group.

In addition to the exposure of Taste Not Waste to students during orientation, this year’s improvement may also be, in part, a result of a spike in environmental awareness in young people, said Concordia’s Sustainability Coordinator, Jaclynn Maahs.

With student-led global climate strikes happening more frequently, Maahs said, younger people are beginning to notice and want to take action to stop the damage being done to the environment.

“As you look at younger people, they’re more passionate because their lives will be
impacted the most by what we’re doing today,” Maahs said.

As a way of raising even more awareness of the large amounts of food that go to waste, Taste Not Waste conducts two projects per semester. The first project, according to Maahs, is the plate scraping event. A large bin is stationed by the dish rack in Anderson Commons. Students
brush all edible food remaining on their plates into the bin before placing their dishes on the rack.

No data is collected during this event. Its purpose is to raise awareness and influence students to be conscientious with what they pile on their plates by providing a visual representation of how much food is actually wasted.

The second project done by Taste Not Waste is a study. In order to obtain the most accurate amount of data, the study isn’t advertised. On the day of the study, all of the plates from the dish rack are gathered. Then, all of the edible food left on the plates is compiled and weighed. This happens for two days. After two days’ worth of food waste is collected from Anderson Commons, the average of the two days is calculated. From the average, an estimate of waste accumulated per month is found and recorded.

The first semester’s study has already been conducted. Meredith Wagner, the other co-leader of Taste Not Waste, said that last semester’s study shows that plate waste is down 36.83% since October 2016. This is the greatest percentage drop seen in a fall semester since the campaign began.

Though Taste Not Waste didn’t reach its goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2020, Maahs and Kopperud, encouraged by the progress indicated by this fall’s study, are hopeful that the amount of food wasted at Concordia will continue to decline.

“I’m a Cobber,” Kopperud said. “I know Cobbers. We can do this.”

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