Thanksgiving is known across America as THE premier holiday where you gather with friends and family to eat yourself straight into a food coma. Some of the best memories can be made in the kitchen, stressing over a turkey or baked sweet potato mash that is only a few seconds away from burning. And there is no excitement that matches a broke college student’s when sitting down to a table stocked with way more food than can be humanly consumed in one sitting. I for one had an amazing week with my family, as I hope you did too.
However, the true meaning behind Thanksgiving has become lost in the eternally stocked supermarket shelves across America, and I would like to take this time to reflect on the origins of this very special holiday. Food used to be scarce. Winters used to be so brutal and agriculture so primitive that the fear of hunger was very, very real. Holidays like Thanksgiving celebrated the gift of families working together to make sure everyone could eat a warm meal.
Hunger is truly a foreign concept to many of us Americans. Turn any corner and there is food to consume. So much food that we often buy too much and throw it away without a second thought. A 2009 study showed that Americans are throwing away an average of 1400 calories per person per day, or 150 trillion calories in total per year. Beyond the horrible juxtaposition of a country like ours lacking appreciation for our ample food and a country like Syria where the average child starves, wasted food has a devastating effect on the environment. Food in a landfill emits methane, a greenhouse gas 25x more potent than the carbon dioxide emitted by our cars. In addition, given that agriculture requires the use of about 70% of the American fresh water supply, wasted food is also wasted water, an increasingly scarce resource.
In 2014, Team Green Dining aimed to study just how much food our students throw away. In only a three hour dinner at the old Douglass Dining Hall we collected OVER 100 POUNDS of food thrown away by students. This did not even account for food thrown away at Danforth, the Pit, Connections, Starbucks, or Pura Vida!
Now that the Holidays are upon us (and winter is coming), Team Green challenges you to take some time to be grateful for the gift of food and limit the amount you waste. One person, just by buying only what you need, can truly have an amazing impact.
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Guest Post Written by Jacqueline Ibragimov, Dining Team Green Communications Intern (Class of 2018)
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons