November is a magical month. Leaves fall to the ground, providing a lovely crunch with each step. Morning walks to Commons are characterized by cool air and bright sunlight. And as Thanksgiving break quickly approaches, Bates students, staff, and faculty alike are delighted.
But November offers us more than just exquisite weather and some much-needed time off. It also provides us with an opportunity to examine what we waste and why we waste it. So, in honor of No Waste November, I took to Commons to ask Bates students how and why they reduce their food waste.
Beanie O’Shea ’18 said that she takes her time choosing what to eat at meals; that way, she can be sure she wants to eat everything she puts on her plate. “I take a lot of laps before deciding. A lot,” she said. “I also use smaller plates, so I can’t fit as much.” According to O’Shea ’18, reducing our individual food waste helps us to be aware of how lucky we are.
“At Bates, we’re very fortunate with what we can have access to in terms of food. [Reducing food waste] is one of the things we can do to address not only environmental issues, but also to address our privilege and to really think about what it means to have access to so much,” she said.
Bryce O’Brien ’20 and Celia Feal-Staub ’20 take multiple trips to get food in Commons rather than filling their entire plates on the first go. “You can always go up for more,” O’Brien ’20 tells.
According to O’Brien ’20, sustainable habits can have positive economic impacts in the long term. “If students were consistent in cutting down on food waste, Bates would adjust the menu sizes and save a lot of money,” he said.
For Feal-Staub ’20, reducing food waste is about using individual actions to affect collective change. She said that “if every individual person reduces their own food waste in Commons, Commons would then know better how much food to make at each meal. This would mean that Commons as a dining hall would make less food, which would make a bigger impact than any individual person.”
Maya Chessen ’21 says that she cuts back on wasted food by testing out new foods in Commons before she serves herself large portions. “If I don’t know what something is or if I’ll like it, I’ll take a really small amount, so if I don’t want it I don’t throw out too much,” Chessen ’21 states.
According to Chessen ’21, extra food that isn’t composted is wasted, and subsequently hurts our planet. “It’s really important to reduce waste, not only because it’s bad for Bates financially, but because it has really negative environmental impacts too,” she said.
Whether you choose to do laps before serving yourself, take multiple trips up to food stations, or start with small portions of new foods, your actions in Commons can have positive and important impacts. Reducing food waste doesn’t have to be hard. If every Bates student wasted just one ounce less per meal, Commons could save approximately $46,000 annually. That’s just two fewer chicken nuggets, three fewer French fries, or a third less of a slice of pizza. So, during this No Waste November, consider cutting back on your food waste using simple strategies that can and will have complex, sweeping impacts.