Presentation deck summarizing research process and insights.

Presentation deck summarizing quantitative investigation.


Presentation deck summarizing qualitative investigation.

Understanding Food Waste

Thesis Project
Turning Food Waste from a Liability into an Asset

Food Waste Problem
Stanford produces 3900 tons of food waste per year - and not all of it goes to compost.

Generating Data
Since no good data existed on how, why and where food waste was created, we sorted over 2,000 lbs of food, compost and garbage to find out. We found that less than 10% of all waste in public Stanford waste bins was food. So we looked to larger sources of food waste.

A 24hr audit of compost bins from a large dining hall revealed 586lbs of compost, of which 441 lbs was food waste. Further audits of alternate dining halls showed that the average university dining hall disposed of approximately 326lbs of human-grade food per day.

Prior to our audits, management 's estimates were 1/10th this amount.

Re-framing the Problem
Our research indicated that the problem wasn't the presence of food waste in landfills, but the creation of food waste in the first place.
The problem lay in production methods, incentive structure, and management priorities.

Short-Term Impacts
Simply by collecting data and participating in our pig-feed program, dining hall partners were able to reduce their human-grade food waste by an average of 70% - from 326lbs to 94 lbs.

Long-Term Impacts of Just 35% Food Waste Reduction
1. Financial:  Conservatively, we would see savings of $1.8 Million a year across residential dining services

2. Environmental: We could conserve 3.6 Million gallons of fresh water a year in the food system. This is excluding incidental water usage, such as cleaning and preparing the food.