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Bon Appetit seeks to reduce food waste in dining halls

Helena Guan

Bon Appetit plans to reduce food waste at Mills College dining facilities in order to address its negative impacton the environment.

The production, transfer and decomposition of food waste-or municipal solid waste-produces greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane, which help cause global warming, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bon Appetit’s website,, explains the connection between food and climate change: “The food system overall is responsible for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and dietary choices can equal the difference between driving an efficient sedan versus a large SUV.”

Bon Appetit launched the cooperation-wide “Low Carbon Diet Initiative” in January, according to general manager for Bon Appetit at Mills, Merilee Olson.

Olson said the purpose of this initiative is to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, which is the total amount of greenhouse gases, usually expressed in equivalent tons of CO2, produced to support human activities at one period of time.

The Bon Appetit staff hopes to reduce the amount of CO2 produced at Mills by weighing food waste. The food waste is measured by having diners dump all wasted food into clear buckets, called Cambros, which are then weighed in pounds and turned into compost.

Olson said she does not know how much food waste Mills has contributed in the past because it was never measured, but she broke down the waste created after winter break.

Between Jan. 25 and 31, Mills produced 102 Cambros. The next week, the community produced 84 Cambros and between Feb. 8 and 14, 78 Cambros of food were wasted.

“So you can see it is definitely having an impact!” Olson said in regard to the smaller amounts of food waste.

Olson said charts in Founders and the Tea Shop list the daily amount of waste collected so that “our students and customers can stay informed about this initiative.”

According to Olson, the results, recorded in pounds of food wasted each week, will be totaled and posted at the end of the month.

Bon Appetit’s goal with the “Low Carbon Diet Initiative” is to reduce food waste by 25 percent by 2010. Olson said, “I would love to see food waste here be reduced by 25 percent by the end of this semester! I think it is doable.”

Another step in food waste reduction is the “Taste, Don’t Waste” initiative. The purpose of this is to encourage students not to take food that they will not eat by allowing them to taste the food before getting a full portion.

Mills has also gone tray-less. According to Auxiliary Services Director Dorothy Calimeris, going tray-less reduces food waste because people take less food if they can only carry one plate instead of piling things onto a tray.

There have been varied responses to these efforts to reduce food waste among the Mills students who regularly eat at Founders and the Tea Shop.

Freshwoman Kalisi Kupu said, “I think it is a good cause, but the way they went about it was a little drastic. I am more cautious now about what food I get though.”

Sophomore Madeleine Anderson offered a suggestion to make the initiative more effective. “I feel like there should be more literature on it, like something on the tables,” she said.

Anderson then stated her expectations for Bon Appetit’s initiative. “I think if people are actually physically dumping the food in the bin and seeing the level rise, they will be more conscientious of how much food they waste,” she said. “I hope people pay attention to it,” she added.

Olson said, “We have a long way to go. If we can get students on board, that would be great! Many of them are, but others aren’t.”

Anyone who would like to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide produced by their food choices can use the low carbon diet calculator at