New Teaching Toolkits from the Love Food Hate Waste Project

Reseachers and lecturers from the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Technology, Sydney and UTS Business School are taking the relatively new sustainability issue, food waste avoidance, into the tertiary curriculum. 

Using a grant from the NSW Goverment Environmental Trust, the UTS team has produced teaching toolkits to introduce food waste avoidance into the curriculum for higher education students. These toolkits have been made publicly available through the Learning & Teaching Sustainability website, 

The project draws on messaging and resources from the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s Love Food, Haste Waste program that highlights how wasting food also wastes the energy, water and natural resources used to grow, package, transport and market that food. 

Although food waste has long been a problem, “It is only now that we are looking at food waste the way we have been thinking for years about water and power waste,” says ISF Research Principal, Jade Herriman. 

Food waste is a complex environmental, social and economic problem. In NSW alone, households are throwing away $2.5 billion dollars worth of edible food each year. This amounts to over 800,000 tonnes across the State.

Businesses in NSW send a staggering amount of food waste to landfill each year. In Sydney alone 300,000 tonnes of food waste is thrown away. Most of this food could have been sold and eaten.

The problem with food waste going to landfill is that when organic waste (including food waste) breaks down it results in the production of methane – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Food waste is not only a big burden on the environment – the 300,000 tonnes of food waste disposed of at Sydney's landfills in 2007–2008 cost business approximately $36 million in disposal fees alone.

The three teaching toolkits contain all that is required for the development of a tutorial/workshop or several tutorials/workshops focusing on commercial responses to food waste, food waste as a household issue and global food waste. “It’s about getting the idea of not wasting food front and centre for students,” says Herriman, who has also been involved with projects aimed at reducing food waste in the home.

The teaching toolkits contain: Learning objectives, suggested lesson format, some quick statistics, reports, infographics, multimedia, responses to the issue, class discussion questions & interactive activities, assessment questions & other possible assessment tasks and a suggested reading list for students. 

Materials contained in these toolkits can be modified and drawn upon by teachers at any institution across a broad range of disciplines. Activities and assessments can be used in undergraduate or graduate programs. Suggested formats have been provided for 60 minute workshops/tutorials. 

The business opportunities kit was trialled with the UTS students enrolled in the Managing for Sustainability subject last semester. Guest speaker Jared Ingersoll illustrating how business can incorporate food waste avoidance practices into the operations of their business model.

The Business School began a process four years ago to integrate sustainability into every subject, rather than treating the subject as an optional extra.

UTS Business School students focus on environmental and social dilemmas as an integral part of their studies, Professor for Sustainable Enterprise Suzanne Benn says.

“The knowledge generated from this project will provide a context for them to consider business development opportunities," she says.

The project team has already introduced food waste avoidance concepts into the Sydney TAFE curriculum. A guest chef speaker gave talks to students during Good Food month in October along with demonstrations of low-waste cooking. TAFE specific teaching materials are also being developed. 

This project is supported by the Environmental Trust as part of the NSW EPA's Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, funded from the waste levy.