Food and Environmental Sustainability: How can you be a more Eco-Friendly Consumer?

Written by Carly Nicolai, with research by members of LMC Fights Waste.


Carly Nicolai, Staff Writer

Did you know that the food we don’t eat has a huge negative environmental impact?

Most of the time, when we consider what we can do for the environment, we’re advised to do things like use reusable water bottles, turn off the lights when we’re not using them, and carpool if and when possible. Much of individual environmental sustainability efforts have to do with what we use, but, what we don’t use is equally as important!

Food waste is defined as food products that are thrown away instead of being consumed. This happens on multiple levels: by the farmers, the retailers, and the consumers, and because of the widespread nature of this issue, in the United States, 40% of all food is wasted each year. This problem goes beyond our country, with about 1.4 billion tons of food wasted worldwide each year. 

One of the largest contributors to food waste is overconsumption, where people buy too much food and don’t eat all of it, which results in the waste ending up in landfills. The build-up of this waste in landfills produces large amounts of the greenhouse gas methane, which traps heat in the atmosphere — this directly contributes to climate change. On top of this, all the resources like energy, soil, and water that were expended to grow and produce the food are being completely wasted when that food is not consumed. 

So what can we do about food waste? 

It is important to consider that a large part of the problem is capitalistic, meaning that widespread industrial changes are absolutely necessary to improve this issue, but that does not mean individuals shouldn’t also do their part! 

Have you ever found years-old expired foods in the back of your fridge or cabinets, having forgotten they were even there in the first place? Or maybe the fruits and vegetables you bought eventually grew mold? Both of these are examples of food waste as a result of overconsumption. 

It is partially a product of our society that often we purchase more than we need when we go to the grocery store; just “shopping around” without anything specific in mind. While it might be fun, when we do this we are more likely to purchase items that we will end up not consuming, which is harmful to the environment. Instead, the next time you go shopping, have a plan of action, and when you see anything of interest, make sure it is something you will end up actually eating.

Not only is the reduction of food waste good for the environment, reducing methane emissions, and pollution, but it’s also good for your wallet. The less you buy that you don’t end up consuming, the more money you are saving! 

There are also certain food items that college students often purchase that might not be so great for the environment. Keurig cups are one example, because although the company began using recyclable plastic in 2021, actually recycling a keurig pod would theoretically require you to first remove the foil lid and empty the coffee grounds, as well. 

Even if you were to do this, according to the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA), k-cups and other similar coffee pods are too small to be caught by the machine used to sort out recyclables, so they should just be thrown in the trash to prevent from contaminating them. The more sustainable option would be to use a reusable metal k-cup, instead. 

In fact, OCRRA advises that the only plastic products that should be recycled are bottles, jugs, jars and wide-mouthed stackable dairy tubs. If you have any questions about the definitions of these containers, or if other products should be recycled or not, you can search for them on their website at

But, what about Le Moyne? How has the school committed to environmental sustainability in its dining services? According to the college website, beginning in August of 2007, Sodexo’s food services team initiated a pre-consumer composting program, which means that all the food scraps that would usually be discarded during preparation are instead being composted. This does not account for all the food waste produced by the students when they leave food on their plates, though. 

With Earth Jam coming up, students are organizing multiple efforts in the name of environmental sustainability. Specifically, there will be tables dedicated to donating non-perishable goods to a food bank, and as well as composting organic waste. Please consider stopping by on April 22nd to learn about how to be more eco-friendly and for ideas on how to be a more conscious day-to-day consumer.

We should all try to live by the saying: “leave this world a little better than you found it.”

For more information about environmental sustainability, follow @lmcfightswaste on Instagram.