Bring Your Own Bowl events help raise environmental awareness

Did you know that UWE students throw away £9 a week on average by wasting food? What’s worse, unwanted food which ends up in landfill as opposed to the composting bin results in skyrocketing greenhouse gas emissions! United Nations say that if food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest greenhouse gas emitter! We live in times where food waste simply doesn’t make sense on any level – our planet cannot sustain it, we can’t afford it and we cannot let edible produce waste while so many people around the world are going hungry.

Universities’ traditional role is educating and raising awareness – they have been doing it for centuries and are now pretty good at it! But there is so much more we could do – we need to collaborate with charities, shape social norms and engage with our students both in serious and fun ways! During the 2017/18 academic year, we decided to take food waste seriously and have launched a series of events which send important messages to everyone.

Between September 2017 and February 2018 we organised three massive Bring Your Own Bowl (BYOB) events. With generous help from local retailers and charities (big thanks to the Co-op and FareShare!) The Students’ Union staff cooked up three huge dinners from surplus food, which otherwise would be wasted. Collectively, we saved over 200 kg of food and fed over 600 students completely for free!

We used BYOB as a tool for engaging students with food waste. Each event was accompanied by extra activities such as guest talks or a film screening. We have rolled out an extensive promotional campaign, which involved leafleting, face-to-face conversations, posters and a food waste quiz. By monitoring the quiz answers given, we found that student’s awareness has risen by 21%!

Have our events led to improved behaviour in the long term? Following the BYOB event, we have asked participants to fill in a short survey. Here, 63% agreed that BYOB has encourage them to take action on food waste. Throughout the year, we have given you more opportunities to get involved:

  • we organised “gleaning days”, where we collected unwanted harvest from the local farms;
  • we taught students gardening and offered place, support and tools to grow their own food at the campus;
  • we rolled out more food waste bins across The SU bars;
  • we have been measuring the composition of general waste bins across the student accommodation (results to follow once the academic year finishes!)

Finally, we wanted to ensure that you have enjoyed BYOB. We hope that your quotes expressed what statistics couldn’t:

"It’s a good idea to use up waste/leftover food and as a student it’s a nice free meal. Also encourages our flat and people around our flat to all get together at the SU."

"It's the clearest way to make me aware of the losses of food waste and not seizing the full potential of food and resources."