Food Waste: A Matter of Mindset

Belle McDougald and Emily Weaver are passionate about the environment. 

“We are both taking AP Environmental Science and we are both Eco Mons,” said Belle. “What we do as Eco Mons is important at Taft, but doesn’t always go beyond campus to the local area. For our ISP project we wanted something that would extend our reach a little more in the community.”

 Belle and Emily started thinking about water issues, things like conservation and pollution.    

 “We realized that was a very, very broad topic, and one that we might not be able to really impact immediately in a meaningful way,” explained Emily. “But when we started talking about food waste, we knew that something as simple as getting people to take smaller portions in the dining hall was a good and tangible goal.”

The duo spent the early weeks of the fall term researching the many aspects food waste in our country. They created a shared document on Google, where they logged their findings. Then they hit the streets of Watertown.

“We thought it was really important to talk directly to people in the community who were working in the restaurant industry and grocery industry and get their perspectives on with food waste,” said Belle. “We wanted to know what their main sources of food waste were. Did people take leftovers home? If not, why? What are you discarding and why? Where does it go?”

“We used the information from our research to develop almost a script, so that we were asking all of the local businesses the same questions,” Emily explained. “We found that expiration dates are a huge issue in food waste; by law, once items are past the expiration date they cannot be sold or donated to homeless shelters. But food is also being thrown out because it doesn’t look good, like bruised fruit, so no one will buy it.” 

Equally important, Emily said, is the issue of mindset: “People don’t think that much about food waste—they don’t know or don’t care, they just aren’t thinking about it.”

Their goal, then, became education. A talented videographer, Belle proposed a short documentary: “We thought a video was a very easy way to share information about really important topics with the full community, to make them aware of issues that can sometimes be overlooked. We thought we could get people interested in learning by simply producing a short video. Just having the opportunity to do something we’re so passionate about—it felt so good.”

Watch the video: