Students can reduce food waste at buffet-style dining halls

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Photo Credit: Diane Sun | Daily Texan Staff

UT is aiming to becoming a Zero Waste Campus by 2020, and students are a fundamental key for this program to succeed. University Housing and Dining, along with Resource Recovery, Surplus Property and Texas Athletics, is working toward achieving this goal. Students can reduce their carbon footprint by reducing, reusing and recycling.

Although recycling and composting seems difficult, there is something anyone can do before disposing any trash. That is reducing food waste — food that is thrown away, uneaten.

Dining halls contribute to food waste on campus, especially J2 and Kinsolving. Since they have all you can eat buffets, many students and staff take advantage of them, as they oftentimes are cheaper than JCL and Cypress Bend. And in these spaces, students often discard excess food they could not finish. But there is still an opportunity to turn these dining halls into sustainable spaces.

Doing this is fairly easy. You just have to eat everything you are served. If you can’t finish your food, try to take it home and eat it later. However, if you notice that this is a recurring problem, be mindful of how much you can actually eat, and serve yourself less food. 

Unfortunately, food waste is a big problem, not only at UT but all over the country. To put this in perspective, we waste around 40 percent of all edible food, or about 20 pounds of food per person each month.

Neil Kaufman, sustainability coordinator for UHD, talks about the programs the department uses to practice sustainability. After the dining halls close, any food that is not served is donated to a soup kitchen that repurposes it to feed people experiencing homelessness and other people in need. They have been doing this for 10 years. The program can’t stop students from serving themselves more food, but UHD encourages students to serve themselves only what they’re going to eat. The team does studies to see how much food is being wasted and found that, “last fall, there was about 17,000 pounds of edible food being wasted — and this is only at J2.“ 

If you go to one of those all-you-can-eat buffets, make sure you can actually eat it before you put it on your plate. 

Lara is an arts and entertainment technologies sophomore from Mexico City. She is a columnist. Follow her on Twitter @adrilandd.