Unfortunately, almost all of us are guilty of wasting food every now and then, but these occasions add up to an incredible 1.3 billion tons worldwide per year. In the United States, almost 30% of all food produced is thrown away each year totaling roughly $48.3 million dollars. The impact of food waste is not just financial, there are several environmental repercussions as well. These include:
- the waste of harmful chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides
- wasted fuel for transmission
- rotting food that emits harmful amounts of methane into the atmosphere which contributes to global warming
These negative factors can be significantly reduced if individuals invested in sustainable food. Sustainable food is produced from agricultural systems that have specific attributes related to sustainable production systems, fair labor practices, and distance traveled. Stevens has become a leading force in this trend and sources its produce within a 250 mile radius as well as purchasing other goods from local companies in the Tri-State area.
Stevens Institute of Technology has proposed an aerobic food digester to be purchased by Compass One (the Stevens Dining Services provider).
An aerobic food digester replaces composting on campus, by providing a system that breaks down organic food waste which is then drained into the local sewer system. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions that would be spent hauling compost to a composting site. Other benefits of using an aerobic digester include:
- reduced waste volume and collection frequency
- improvement of efficiency and workflow
- elimination the transportation of food waste to landfills
- elimination of compactor odors
- decrease in janitorial costs
- prevention of pollution
In addition to the aerobic food digester, Stevens is planning a community garden to be maintained by student and faculty volunteers. The community garden will teach and promote sustainable agricultural practices.
Fresh, Local, and Organic Food
All produce is sourced from Plainfield Produce located in Plainfield, NJ. Plainfield partners with local farmers throughout the region to produce the freshest selection of fruits, vegetables and specialty items. Up to 22% of produce purchased by Stevens is sourced within a 250 mile radius.
In addition to buying local produce when possible, Stevens purchases organic salad greens, such as arugula, baby spinach and mixed greens. Stevens also purchases from other local companies, such as Cream-O-Land in Kearny, NJ, Rockland Baking in Nanuet, NY and Farmers Brothers Coffee in Moonachie, NJ.
The Stevens Meatless Monday Initiative
The Stevens Meatless Monday initiative is a pillar of the university's commitment to sustainability and health of its students. Stevens Dining reduces the amount of meat that is served in the prepared food section. Reducing your intake of meat products may reduce risk of chronic preventable health conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Going meatless, even once a week can also help reduce ones carbon footprint and save finite and non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels and fresh water. Water needs for livestock are much greater than those of vegetables and grains, with approximately 1,850 gallons of water needed to produce a single pound of beef. Only 39 gallons are needed to produce a single pound of vegetables.