How I Realized How Much Food is Wasted by Living in the Dorms

Food waste is food that is spoiled or expired and not able to be consumed. This has been a huge issue around the world, especially in developed countries such as Japan, because it is not only the wasting of edible food but also of precious resources. For example, to grow a single tomato, you need thirteen liters of water and fifty liters to grow an orange. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed and there is an urgent need to decrease the amount of food waste. The International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste is on September 29th, but let’s start thinking about how to tackle this problem today. 

Food waste grabbed my attention when I started to live in the dorms at my university and was cooking my meals all the time. I saw people throwing out spoiled vegetables because they forgot about them or because they couldn’t finish using them. There were also people scraping off meals they couldn’t finish from their plates into the garbage. I have to admit, I used to be one of these people. Sometimes I’d make too much or wouldn’t be able to finish the dish before it went bad. I can also be pretty picky about what I eat, so I’d end up not using all of the ingredients I bought. I was surprised at the amount of food waste in our garbage and I can’t imagine the amount our whole dorm wastes. You may not know it, but check your parents and your home to see if whoever is cooking for you is really using everything in the refrigerator. I’m sure they’re throwing things out because in Japan, out of 6.43 million tons of food waste, it is estimated that 2.91 million tons are waste from homes. 

Hungry Giphy

Ever since I realized the amount of food I throw away, I’ve learned from my mistakes and have started to think and plan before I go grocery shopping. I have to say that I’m not a great cook and I also don’t love doing it, so when I buy vegetables it’s usually because I’m craving something, which means that I don’t plan on using a whole lot. I think one of the reasons why a lot of people who live alone throw out food is because a lot of recipes and proportions are for families. A tip that I have is to buy precut vegetables instead of one whole vegetable to prevent wasting or letting something rot just because you don’t know how to use a certain part. I also like to create meal plans so that I know exactly what, when, and how much I’m using something. In order to prevent wasting cooked meals, I always remember to make “less”. No matter how much I’m craving something, I think with my head instead of my stomach, which can be pretty hard.  

Crudites Christin Urso / Spoon

As a student that lives in the dorms, I really want to emphasize how much our community produces food waste. I think everyone can take action and it’s not complicated because you just have to think a little about how you can use everything you buy! Food waste is not just an issue that needs to be tackled by restaurants and stores but by every household needs to do a little something to change our situation. We need to remember the number of resources that go into producing fresh food and never forget how privileged we are. 

Lately, COVID-19 has led to a significant increase in food waste because it has shut down transportation routes and created restrictions. In Japan, we are fortunate enough to have food but in many countries, there is a risk in food security. Food waste must be dealt with now around the world, so I hope the ICU community as well as households can take action towards it too.