Students Take on Food Waste at WPU

April 25, 2023

Environmental Studies students at William Peace University are taking a hands-on approach to making their campus greener with a composting initiative. With Dr. Glover’s Global Environmental Issues class, students are tackling food to help create a more sustainable environment.

Glover’s students recognized the growing issue of food waste after learning that about one-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food. Additionally, more than one-third of the food in the U.S. is never eaten, meaning that food waste is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Their goal is to introduce a campus-wide education and composting initiative that can help contribute to a more sustainable future.

The students have three goals for their project: educating the WPU community on food waste and its impact on campus, implementing composting for food waste generated outside of the dining hall, and creating signs for waste disposal bins to help with proper waste disposal.

The students conducted extensive research and surveys across the WPU campus. They found that most students who eat in the dining hall participate in food waste daily. The dining hall composts food waste generated in the dining hall, but there is currently no way to compost outside food waste. Students wanted to create something that furthered awareness of the situation rather than letting compost go on behind the scenes. They wanted their initiative to incorporate students first-hand, which is why their project includes placing a composting bin on campus outside the dining hall. That way, all students to participate and learn about composting, and even those who live off-campus can bring their food waste to campus to compost.

“Our food system has a significant environmental impact due to land use change, pollution, water use, and carbon emissions from agricultural production, and food transportation, processing, storage,” Glover said. “A significant portion of food intended for human consumption ends up wasted and often in landfills – so all of the energy and emissions that went into making the food is just lost.”

The students are using a wide range of skills to communicate the initiative, including creating informational posters on food waste and composting and marketing the compost bins through social media and the website.

Reducing the amount of food waste, for example, through meal planning, decreasing portion size, and storing foods properly, is the best way to minimize the environmental impact of food waste. By promoting awareness about the issue of food waste, the students hope to inspire their fellow WPU students to recognize the value of minimizing food waste as a first step towards more sustainable practices. 

However, when food waste is thrown out, it ends up in landfills, producing methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By adding a compost bin on campus, the class hopes to minimize this at WPU. 

“Our goal is to make it easy for everyone to take part in reducing food waste and contributing to a more sustainable future,” said student Jared Howard ’24. “Through composting, we can ensure that some good comes from our uneaten food.”  

According to Taylor Lawson ’23, “By increasing awareness of our shared environmental impact, we can drive individual WPU community members to improve sustainability, both in their own lives and in their communities.”

The students will host an informational booth and provide materials on April 25, 2023, highlighting the benefits of composting on campus. Glover and her students hope to have the compost bin ready for use by the start of the Fall 2023 semester. Through their composting initiative, these WPU students are demonstrating the power of taking action and positively impacting the environment, one small step at a time.