An Introduction to the Advocacy Team and the Campaign to Reduce Campus Food Waste

This is my first time ever writing a blog post, and I wanted to use the opportunity to discuss what Sustain SU’s Advocacy Team has accomplished so far this year.

Avneet and I are co-leading the Advocacy Team, and our team also has six amazing sustainability ambassadors! Each year, the Advocacy Team focuses on raising awareness about a particular issue of sustainability on campus. We named this year’s project “Mindful Not Wasteful.” Our main goal is to increase the university community’s awareness about food waste and food insecurity – bridging together environmental and social sustainability. We decided it will make a tangible difference if we encouraged food vendors on campus to either donate or reduce the price of food items that are approaching their expiration or best before dates. This will decrease the amount of food that is wasted by food vendors. Additionally, it would reduce the amount of money that people experiencing food insecurity would have to pay for nutritious food. This therefore not only contributes to environmental and social sustainability, it also impacts economic sustainability – although in a more indirect way.

We first began by reaching out to EMSO (Energy Management and Sustainable Operations); they run the Green Spaces Certification program. Avneet and I changed our approach slightly from directly approaching the food vendors, to reaching the food vendors through the Green Spaces Certification program. Food vendors become certified by pledging to take “innovative actions” outlined in the checklist. The more “innovative actions” a food vendor pledges to take, the higher the chance they have at moving up from bronze to silver or even gold certification. Thankfully, when we got in touch with EMSO, they were in the process of renewing their checklist, so we could not have reached out at a better time. EMSO has already managed to change their checklist with our recommendations. Under the “Social Good” section of the checklist, they put in place two new “innovative actions” which encourage food vendors to pledge to “donate excess food on an ongoing basis,” and to “discount, or provide for free, items that would otherwise be thrown out at the end of the day.”

green spaces certification -
Check this page out if you are interested in learning more about Green Spaces Certification and EMSO.

We thought that this adjustment to the Green Spaces Certification checklist would take much longer than it did, so we are very excited and proud of the work that EMSO has done. To celebrate this collaboration and to reward food vendors that commit to social good, we are working on designing a sticker that we will reward to food vendors that commit to social good. The stickers will be similar to those awarded to Green Spaces Certified food vendors and will be placed next to them. These stickers are meant to incentivize food vendors to decrease their food waste, and to reward those that are already taking steps to decrease food waste and food insecurity.

Our team has also delivered presentations to 100- and 200-level classes on how to use the Zero Waste Stations found on campus. We created a video to start our presentation, and then we proceeded to discuss how to properly sort and dispose waste. These presentations are important, as many students – especially those that are new to the University of Alberta – are unsure about which bin to put their waste into.

better bins
Do you know which bin to use? Check here if for a quick refresher.

Additionally, as part of our advocacy on food waste and food insecurity, we frequently set up a table to talk to the university community about these prevalent issues. We also ran a trivia game that is made to teach people about local and global food waste and food insecurity, as well as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. When people answered questions correctly, we would usually give out pens, but almost everyone that stopped by our table learned something new.

Our team is proud of what we have already accomplished this year, and we can’t wait to resume our environmental advocacy in the Winter Term!

Liam Bolton
Advocacy Team LT

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