As a means of gathering information about Organic Waste solutions, our group researched other educational institutions and explored the ways in which they are tackling similar issues.
Upon investigation, the University of Illinois came to our attention. The University strives to create environmentally responsible dining within their facility via methods of sustainable sourcing and waste reduction. This can be seen in their alliance with larger environmental bodies such as the EPA, Zero Percent and Lean Path. Their attempts have been largely successful and have ultimately earned them recognition with awards such as the 2015 Governor’s Sustainability Award, and the 2015 Sustainability in Waste Management Award (The University of Illinois 2017).
One main point of interest that arose from this research was the option to donate food when it is in excess. This can be seen in their contribution to Pantry and Foodbank programs across areas including Urbana and Ranoul (The University of Illinois 2017). This discovery sparked the conversation about food sharing amongst our group and eventually informed our final concept.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages organisations to pledge support to their initiatives such as the Food Recovery Challenge (FRC). The University of Illinois, amongst other institutions, have sought to take part in this challenge by rethinking their relationship with food in its’ various stages. The processes of extraction, manufacturing, distribution, use, reuse and disposal of food can display numerous points of intervention to be addressed with hope to reduce waste. The Food Recovery Hierarchy (United State Environmental Protection Agency 2016) is used as a reference to prioritise actions and prevent or divert wasted food. This system places source reduction and donations with the highest precedence and thus, further informed our decision to explore food sharing as a solution to Organic Waste.
In addition to this, Zero Percent is an organisation that aims to bridge the gap between the abundance and scarcity of food in the US. Their testimonial expresses that they “help put good surplus food to the best use” (Zero Percent n.d) which ultimately allows partnering institutions to recognise that their support is genuinely required and will make a difference to those in need.
Furthermore, as a means of decreasing food waste, the University of Illinois has invested in a system that will monitor their current levels of food waste. The technology behind ‘Lean Path’ allows businesses to accurately record the amount of produce that is being diverted to waste on a daily basis and within multiple sectors of their establishment (Lean Path 2017). This ultimately allows them to quantify and locate areas within their business that are lacking in economic design which can then be resolved. They also boast the ability to cut a businesses’ food expenses by 6% (Lean Path 2017), and thus, appeal to large institutions who are concerned with their excess food waste.
As demonstrated by The University of Illinois, Organic Waste is a Wicked Problem (Buchanan 1992) which cannot be simply solved via one solution, yet is approached from numerous directions. It is a complex issue which encompasses a profound amount of stakeholders and external relating issues. It is therefore important that institutions such as universities acknowledge these facts and attempt to address the multiple facets it entails.
The University of Illinois 2017, Sustainability in Dining, Illinois, viewed 17 June 2017, <http://www.housing.illinois.edu/dining/about-dining/sustainability>.
United State Environmental Protection Agency 2016, Food Recovery Challenge (FRC), viewed 17 June 2017, <https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-challenge-frc>.
Zero Percent n.d. Our Impact, Chicago, viewed 17 June 2017,< http://www.zeropercent.us/>.
Lean Path 2017, What is Lean Path?, Orlando, viewed 17 June 2017, <http://www.leanpath.com/how-it-works/>.
Buchanan, R. 1992, ‘Wicked Problems in Design Thinking.’ Design Issues, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 14-15.