To teach students about the environmental impacts of food waste, an Environmental Protection Agency representative partnered with the UNT community garden to give a presentation this past Friday morning in the Business Leadership Building to try to reduce food waste at UNT.
“Producing food takes depleting resources and causes environmental impacts that affect us all,”Stephen Sturdivant, an environmental engineer and U.S. EPA Region 6 representative, said. “We all have a part to play. My hope is that viewers will walk away with a better understanding of how our choices impact the environment and how we can make better choices to help create a more sustainable future.”
During Sturdivant’s presentation, his main point was that pollution is caused when food is wasted that occurs from production to disposal. Reducing food waste reduces environmental impacts and conserves natural resources.
“Being a member of the community garden to me means that you care about the environment and reducing your footprint,” attendee Brianah Jackson said. “[Now] when I go grocery shopping, I’ll only buy what I need for the week instead of the month. When I usually buy for the month, a lot of food … goes bad.”
The community garden, located behind Legends Hall, is a resource available to all students that started as a student-led project to promote environmental education.
This student resource is funded by the We Mean Green Fund to allow students to form a community focused on students growing their own food, according to the UNT Community Garden website.
“Growing food in the garden, what I’ve learned is that food is precious and it takes a lot of energy, time and resources to grow a seed into a full vegetable,” the community garden facilitator Libby Brookshire said. “And just going through that process of taking care of the garden, like watering plants every day, it makes you realize how precious food really is and not wanting to waste it because of all the effort and energy it takes into getting it.”
Brookshire said she hoped to interest the ecology department in Sturdivant’s presentation and gain more participants for the garden.
Sturdivant reached out to the community garden to set up his presentation so students and the community garden could keep food waste in mind when trying to stay green, Brookshire said.
“I believe community gardens and the Sustainable Food Management program at EPA both achieve one similar goal, which is to get the students more engaged and thinking about their food so they can make more sustainable choices,” Sturdivant said. “I think people will be able to make more informed decisions to help minimize environmental impact and protect natural resources.”
America wastes one pound of food a day and 225 to 290 pounds per year, Jackson said. This can be helped by donating scraps to Shiloh farms or by donating unopened food items to nonprofits or food pantries, according to Sturdivant’s presentation.
Sturdivant focused on the impact of food waste, regarding pollution and what can be done to avoid it. During his presentation, he said on his journey to becoming environmentally friendly, he didn’t realize how harmful food waste was to the environment, and once he realized, he focused on reducing his food waste and wanted to teach others about it.
“I think it’s great that Stephen was able to come in,” Brookshire said. “Because this is something I don’t think is a big focus for UNT right now, but a lot of students have a great interest in food and composting and especially like food security and where their food is coming from and going. And we just, a lot of students, want our school to be even greener than it already is. So, this is great for opening that conversation.”
Featured Image: EPA representative Stephen Sturdivant speaks to students on the environmental impacts of food waste on Nov. 8, 2019. Image by Rebekah Schulte