Ecocentricity Blog: Taking it Personally

By: John A. Lanier
Mar 12, 2019 9:30 AM ET

In many cases, the changes were simple. When restaurant staff was actively engaged in looking for reducible food waste, they tended to find it.


Why on earth are high school students required to learn geometry? Look, I loved it when I was in high school, but that doesn’t mean EVERYONE should take it. I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of us don’t need to know how to calculate the area of a trapezoid or the volume of a cylinder. Much like calculus is an elective, I think geometry should be as well.

I also have a strong opinion on what should take its place – personal finance. Now THAT is a class that every high schooler should be required to take. Most students turn 18 in their senior year, making them eligible to apply for credit cards in their own names. What percentage of them understand what in the heck an APR is? I’d guess the answer is lower than a standard credit card interest rate.

It would be infinitely more useful, and just as academically rigorous, for our young students to graduate with a high-level understanding of budgeting, compound interest, basic accounting, investment markets, and what an ROI is (return on investment). Which brings me to a dang cool headline for an article I read recently (hat tip to Lori Blank for sending it to me): “Restaurants Realize 7:1 ROI by Reducing Food Waste.”

You have my attention! It’s a good piece by Sustainable Brands, highlighting just how much low-hanging fruit there is in reducing food waste (pun!). Across a study of 114 restaurants of various sizes in various locales, the average restaurant realized $7 dollars in operating cost savings for every $1 invested in food waste reduction over a three-year period.

That’s what the hip-and-cool finance kids would call a good investment, and the other data points are impressive as well. According to the full report, food waste fell by an average of 26 percent in a one-year time frame, increasing to 58 percent in a three-year time frame. Three quarters of restaurants saw a payback period of one year or less for their investments, and 89% recouped their investments within two years.

Common strategies included staff engagement, measurement of food waste, reductions in purchasing, and repurposing excess food. In many cases, the changes were simple. When restaurant staff was actively engaged in looking for reducible food waste, they tended to find it.

In a world where millions of people go hungry and food waste is a significant driver of climate change, reports like these are laudable. We need more though. The business case is there, and if I had to guess, it applies to restaurants, schools, corporate headquarters, and households alike. You don’t need to study geometry to know that stopping food waste just makes sense (really bad pun!). 
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Ray C. Anderson Foundation
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