In 1992, I was a high school student at the Federal Science College in Ogoja, Cross River State, Nigeria. It is exciting sitting here reminiscing about the times I spent at this boarding school. We were the pioneer students at this Unity/Federal school, established by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Our sister science school was in Sokoto, and we were nesting at the former campus of the Federal Arts and Science College.
Being the pioneer students had its perks. Everything at the boarding school was new and sharp. Much more, as a budding science school, the first of its kind established by the Federal Government, the students were also well treated. Comparing my high school to other high schools in the state and beyond, we were living very well, almost like kings and queens, in the high school sense of the word. The times were memorable, and all those in the 1994 set can attest to this fact, to say the very least.
As the first Assistant Head Boy, a student body assistant-functional-head position, the perks were even more. When it came to cafeteria times, our food portions were copious as well as delicious. The food was so much that we ate to our fill; however, its bulk ended in the trash. At this juncture, a good friend of mine that I look up to to date corrected us to take what we could eat and not be part of the group of students that were throwing away food. This cautionary talk that I had with Fidelis became a guiding watchword from then onwards. Unknowingly to me, this was my first call to Sustainability.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Sustainability is just creating a harmonious balance between the human element and the environment to support the present and future generations.1 Our actions as humans always impact the environment. As a strategy to promote sustainability, the EPA admonishes us to throw away less via reducing what we use, embracing reusing things, recycling, and adopting sustainable food management practices. The EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy (See Diagram 1) highlights six strategies that can help in sustainably managing food.3
First, the EPA advises that we should lower the volume of surplus food generated.2 Reading this strategy coming from the EPA casts my mind back to the surplus food produced during my high school days, as I stated in the preceding paragraphs. Second, instead of throwing over-produced food away, we need to seek avenues to donate these foods.2 Here in the United States, we can find our local food bank, soup kitchens, and shelters and distribute these foods. Third, we should consider diverting the scraps that we generate to the feeding of animals.2 Fourth, the EPA suggests the idea of fostering the industrial use of waste oils from food for fuel conversion use.2 Fifth, the EPA recommends that we should adopt composting, which helps to keep the earth fertile for further agro-advancement.2 Sixth, the EPA advises that landfill/incineration should be our last resort strategy.2
Many people here in the United States do not comprehend the amount of food they throw away daily. It ranges from leftovers to copious foodstuff that we purchase that ends up in the trash at the end of the day. According to the EPA, the United States disposed of 38 million tons of food waste.2 This amount can easily feed the whole planet for a couple of months. Our first line of action will be to adopt the strategies stated above to help curb food wastage. We need to change our psyche and started being reasonable as we remove sustainability hurdles that are along our way.
We need to reduce the amount of food that we waste regularly. The EPA presents four benefits for reducing wasted food. First, it saves money as it prevents us from not buying what we do not need. Second, it reduces the methane emissions that come from landfills, reducing our carbon footprint. Third, the EPA states that this will help conserve energy and resources. Fourth, we support our community as we donate surplus food to help the less privileged. Join the sustainability crusade and assist in the reduction of food wastage.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2016). Learn about sustainability. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/sustainability/learn-about-sustainability#what
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2016). Reducing wasted food at home. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2016). Sustainable management of food. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food