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Sustainability in Food Services and Materials

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Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference



Publication Date

April 9, 2021

Start Date

April 9, 2021

End Date

April 10, 2021

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Paper Authors


Aatish Gupta Rowan University

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I am a Mechanical Engineering student at Rowan University.

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Lauren Mulvihill


Emmet Scott Sedar Rowan University

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I am an accomplished honors student, and aspiring Mechanical Engineer and Physicist, passionate about astronautics and the private military contracting industry. Currently serving as the President of the SAME student chapter at Rowan University.

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Jenna Nicole Sperduto

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In 2019, a student-led environmental committee on our campus drafted a petition, urging the university to take action to “become a leader in environmental stewardship, sustainable innovation, and climate education.” The petition specifically calls for a reform of the dining services on our campus. As institutions of higher learning, universities have an obligation to implement practices that will create a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future. Our team has conducted research to determine the most achievable environmental practices for attaining this future as it pertains to food services through lowering carbon emissions, limiting the production of organic waste entering the municipal solid waste system, limiting food waste, and battling food insecurity. Using this information, we have created a plan of action for our dining services to execute. Although many of our university’s resources have been diverted into combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the problems associated with managing it will abate in the near future, and the climate crisis has not been on hold because of it. We must act now or forever regret it. One of the foremost threats faced by humanity is climate change. This is a process exacerbated by the anthropogenic production of greenhouse gases. Virgin plastic production creates large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, as does the anaerobic decomposition of organic waste in landfills. The methods of waste management in our region are mainly limited to landfilling, a process that relies on dwindling and limited public space and poses potential danger to individuals residing or working nearby. To limit carbon emissions and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, we have recommended that our university cut down on its use of plastic utensils, increase recycling, and compost or donate unused food. We also recommended that educational and persuasive materials are posted across campus to increase awareness of environmental issues and how students can help through the use of proper waste disposal methods. One of the big reasons that waste is not recycled is because people throwing out food do not know how to separate it, so disseminating educational material will be beneficial to combat that issue. The transition to sustainable practices is estimated to last two months with a required allocation of approximately $9,500. There will be administrative measures that must be taken, and the size of the dining services’ staff might have to be expanded due to the increased amount of work that must be done to ensure that the policies recommended are successfully implemented. This is, overall, a small price to pay. The switch to sustainable practices will garner positive press for our university and thereby improve its reputation. This means more money further down the road. This is an excellent opportunity, not only to make a better future, but to be recognized for it and prosper.

Gupta, A., & Mulvihill, L., & Sedar, E. S., & Sperduto, J. N. (2021, April), Sustainability in Food Services and Materials Paper presented at Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference, Virtual . 10.18260/1-2--36318

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