About 40 percent of Thanksgiving food goes to waste, which is equivalent to 204 million pounds of turkey, according to a 2016 report by the environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council.
To advocate for zero food waste, the Campus Environmental Center hosted “Reduce Food Waste on Thanksgiving” at the Union Building on Wednesday evening. The environmental center is a community of students who aim to address environmental issues on campus.
Event organizers taught attendees unique ways to repurpose their holiday leftovers, such as turning mashed potatoes into waffles.
“Food waste is a really big problem in America especially with Thanksgiving coming around the corner,” said Mimi Tran, a human development and family science senior and event co-organizer. “The food waste in our landfills releases a lot of toxic gas waste in the air like methane. So we want to show people that you don’t have to necessarily throw away leftovers, but find other ways to repurpose it.”
Rather than making complex meals with leftovers, the organization wanted to create something easy that anyone can do. Event co-organizer Caroline Garnett said they made waffles from plain mashed potatoes mixed with syrup and chocolate chips because they wanted to demonstrate different and innovative ways to eat holiday leftovers.
“We thought about potatoes because that’s a pretty common side dish and can be kind of boring,” said Garnett, a Plan II and geography sophomore. “So what is a way to make mashed potatoes more interesting? Eventually we just compiled some crazy ideas and got this.”
The attendees were also able to try a free sample of the waffle. Jessica Nguyen, an applied movement science senior who attended the event, said making the food was an interesting experiment.
“Personally, I prefer savory rather than sweet,” Nguyen said. “But this was still a really good idea to eliminate waste and just another way to use potatoes.”
While the organization tries to promote green living, Tran said repurposing their food is not the only way for students to be considered eco-friendly.
“You don’t have to be a specific type of person to live a sustainable life,” Tran said. “You don’t have to make a big switch to be this green-friendly person. It’s all little by little, step by step. We’re all in this together. I’m proud of anyone who tries.”