Food waste is an environmental issue that impacts all of us. Good food thrown away today will be greenhouse gases impacting our community tomorrow. This is all preventable.
Food waste comes in several forms: it can be spoiled food that never made it on a plate, or overstock from a grocery store that never made it to a cart. A food system filled with inefficiency leaves us with extra waste that impacts us all. Lucky for communities around Humboldt County, there are solutions and resources that can reduce the emissions that you are responsible for.
There are several issues that make food waste’s impact so negative. For one, it is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. Food that is wasted in landfills never properly decomposes as it is trapped between other refuse like plastic. It is a waste of the resources put into growing, processing, and transporting food products too. In addition, it is unethical to dispose of so much food in the face of food scarcity.
Many sources of food waste come in the pre-consumer stage, where food fit for consumption is tossed out before making it to market. This can be due to such trivial things as appearance of produce, improper storing techniques, or often, grocery stores throw out food that was never sold.
Alexis Diaz, a remote Environmental Studies student at HSU, is doing her part to combat food waste by dumpster diving. Diaz looked into the legality and found that dumpster diving was permitted under California v. Greenwood (1988), as long as there were no local ordinances prohibiting it. She began frequenting grocery store dumpsters and found her own method of modern foraging. Diaz found herself shopping less and always stocked on produce.
“I went to the dumpster and I just found large amounts of potatoes, onions and apples consistently, I just have so much food to eat” Diaz said.
Zero Waste Humboldt, a local non profit, is doing their part to ensure that food waste never reaches landfills by supporting food security efforts in Humboldt County communities. Their model follows the food recovery hierarchy supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The model starts by reducing production to account for our surplus of food that is thrown away, then feeding people with edible products that would otherwise go to waste. Food unfit for humans and scraps go to farms to feed livestock. Food byproducts like oils go towards industrial uses. Anything unaccounted for in those steps is to be composted and returns nutrients to soils. Their efforts help to propel bills like SB1383, which will hold food industries accountable for their organic waste materials. SB1383 will take effect Jan. 1 2022.
So what can HSU students do about it? Fortunately, the university has several programs to help educate students on waste reduction and mitigate food waste impacts. Waste Reduction Resource Awareness Program (WRRAP) is home of the Earth Tub, an industrial sized composter for student scrap needs.
The Compost Squad puts out five gallon buckets to collect compostable material weekly. Using an e-bike, they deliver it to the Earth Tub to turn into nutrient rich finished compost. The finished product is available for free pickup to use in your own garden.
The Compost Squad is here to help! Krissi Fiebig serves as the Compost Director and is an Environmental Engineering major at HSU.
“Before COVID, the Earth Tub was diverting around 500 pounds of waste every week, but now it is only diverting about 40 pounds,” Fiebig said.
You can change that. Ella Moore, the other member of the Compost Squad, encourages students to get back into eco-friendly habits as student life returns to campus.
“All the students have to do is put their waste into the WRRAP provided buckets that are in dorm kitchens and around campus and you can actually request your own bucket for classrooms on campus as well,” Moore said. “That will be collected on Thursdays after 4 pm.”
As for students off campus, there are options too.
“Students off campus can bring their compost in a brown paper bag or a bin that they can dump to CCAT, the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, and put it into their compost or any other bins around campus,” Moore said.
The Compost Squad misses their loyal bucket holders that did their part to keep the hungry earth tub fed. Please do your part to reduce emissions and mitigate needless waste. For more resources or to answer questions, check out WRRAPs website.