Throughout the year, the environmental interest group (EIG) organizes several green weeks, each with different focuses to encourage environmentally friendly practices. This green week included a food waste audit and the opportunity to write letters to elected officials. EIG leader Ella F ‘20 hopes green week inspires students to be “a little bit more conscious about food waste and understand the importance of its effects on the environment.” Iliana G ‘21, fellow EIG leader, wants green week to help educate students on “the supply chain from the growing of food by farmers to your consumption, specifically your lack of consumption, to the waste of food that most often than not is thrown away and sent to a landfill to decompose.”
Since food waste is the central focus for this green week, each grade level participates in the food waste audit. Every grade level gets their own bin in which to put their food waste from lunch. At the end of each day, EIG weighs this food waste to compare the different amounts from each grade level. Whichever grade has the least amount of food waste wins a grade level party! This year, the 10th grade had the least amount of food waste of the week, averaging at 0.20 pounds per person, per week. The other grades placed as follows:
In 2nd place: The faculty
In 3rd place: The 11th and 12th grade
In 4th place: The 9th grade
In 5th place: The 8th grade
In 6th place: The 7th grade
In 7th place: The 6th grade
Although the 10th grade had the least amount of food waste for the week, the overall goal is to eliminate food waste as a whole. But what’s the difference between our leftover untouched food and the food we throw away? “Leftover, untouched food is transformed into another dish like a soup or a salad bar item; served as leftovers; or donated to the Salvation Army on Pike Street,” says Bethany Fong, Northwest’s director of food services. Bethany reports that the “food that we throw away gets composted with the city. Some food scraps also get fed to the chickens and/or added to our worm bin in the farm and garden.” It’s important to take only what you need so that we have more leftover food rather than composted food. Bethany advises students and faculty “to start with a smaller portion, and then come back for seconds if you are still hungry. One of the ways we try to decrease waste while serving is by using an “offer system” where students are given an opportunity to say yes or no to something. On certain days we also offer half portions (i.e. half or whole sandwich or piece of salmon).” Ella F advises students to really “think about how all your actions may impact the earth, no matter how small.”
Environmental issues don’t just intersect with social justice issues, but they are social justice issues in and of themselves. Makeda C ‘21, leader of Northwest’s Black Student Union, addresses that “racial and environmental issues go hand in hand, as many environmental issues affect people in low income communities, people who are for the most part people of color.” During green week, EIG included a letter writing to the elected officials of Washington for the opportunity for Northwest students to voice both their passions and concerns. People wrote about a multitude of social justice issues including global climate change, gun control, abortion rights, sexual assault prevention, police brutality, and many more.
It’s essential to recognize that the communities that are most affected by climate change also need allies to support them in their other fights for equality. Reducing food waste at Northwest directly impacts our carbon footprint, our greenhouse gas emissions, and increases our ability to utilize all of our untouched food resources.
After a successful green week, the leaders of EIG hope students walk away with a new understanding about food waste. Devon C ‘21 says she has walked away from green week “with a new understanding of the food waste that we produce daily. I’ve learned it’s okay to say no to foods that I know I’m not going to eat.” Look out for more green weeks ahead, as your participation is much appreciated!