Courtesy of Grace Hebron
By: Grace Hebron, Contributing Writer
Towson University’s Campus Sustainability Week continued Oct. 8 with “Food Waste Awareness Day,” from 3 to 6 p.m. at Freedom Square.
The event kicked off with games, snacks and a compost pail raffle, with various student groups from last year’s Retreat for Environmental Action (REA) offering resources to students and serving as experts in sustainable practice.
“We’ve grown up in a society that we are very much the ‘throw away’ kind of people,” said Allison Mosley, a Towson senior and Harford County’s Master Watershed Steward.
“But when we say ‘throw away,’ there is no ‘away.’”
Mosley was referring to the landfills that become home to food once discarded, where it then rots and produces landfill gas (LFG). LFG is comprised of 45-60% methane, the odorless, colorless and flammable gas containing one carbon and four hydrogen atoms.
“Although [methane] is not the most abundant greenhouse gas, it is one of the more impactful gasses,” Mosley said.
Nearly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, methane gas is one of the driving forces behind climate change, which has spurred several recent protests, as scientists have warned that there is dwindling time left to reverse its damage.
Students at Freedom Square learned how composting and gardening can lessen the effects of methane gas and give food multiple uses. Mosley’s “Master Gardener’s” table offered many tips and tricks for prolonging the lives of fruits and vegetables.
“It’s not so much about the type of produce but more about how you’re going to store it,” Mosely said.
To keep them fresh, she suggested storing lettuce leaves in a cup filled with an inch of water and covered with a thin plastic bag, adding that a head of lettuce can last four to six weeks when stored properly in the refrigerator.
At the “Master Gardener’s” table, Mosley also showed students how hot pepper seeds, as well as the bases of celery, pineapple, and romaine lettuce can be used to grow new produce. But composting was the main event. Mosley demonstrated vermicomposting, which uses worms to break food down into fertilizer.
“I can use that compost in my yard, for when I’m trying to regrow my grass, and I can also use it in my potted plants.” Mosley said, adding that “…it feels really good to not have to put anything in the trash.”
First-year biology major Nyshia Hickson enjoyed seeing the worms at work.
“I never learned how to compost because it was never really an option,” said Hickson. “It was just kind of like, you’re either throwing something in the trash or you’re putting something into recycling.”
Hickson said that starting school at Towson University is what introduced her to composting, where composting facilities can be found in all event venues, dining and residence halls on campus.
“Especially if you go to dining halls, you’re constantly throwing away stuff because you’re trying new foods,” she said.
Representatives from the Foodshare program were also at Freedom Square to raise awareness about the program on campus that accepts donations of excess goods.
Towson University students, faculty and staff, can visit the FoodShare pantry, located on the lower level of the Health and Counseling Center at Ward and West, to receive ten free items per week when they show their TU ID and fill out an intake form.
“We take canned food, toiletries — just anything that would help a student go through their college days,” said Bernard Smith, a first-year computer science major and Foodshare representative.
At residence halls, students who stock up on non-perishable items are often left with extra at the end of a semester, according to Smith. Smith said that the program accepts donations from various sources within the Towson community, but that a large number of them are received from students during move-out times.
“A lot of [students] when they’re moving out, they really over estimate the amount of food that they need for the year and they end up donating it to Foodshare,” Smith said.
Mosley said over-filling plates can be avoided by limiting the amount of food prepared.
“You can always go back and get more or cook more, but it’s easier to do that then to waste all this food and have to put it in the trash,” she said.