From 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., I spent my Sunday nights washing dishes in the West End Market. I was the man behind that little conveyor belt that you place trash on when you are finished eating. The constant influx of trash and the endless amount of pots and pans that needed to be scrubbed can truly give you some perspective. Those six hours changed my life.
There are two points that resound with me from this experience.
First, until it’s in front of you, the realization that college students waste so much is shocking, and this includes myself. Whole plates of steak, salad and pasta being thrown away after only a bite was mind-blowing. To think we’re nearing a food crisis is baffling; where that wasted food could have gone surpasses my imagination. It’s no wonder we’re having environmental issues. Our agricultural business is producing at unnaturally efficient rates yet we are wasting just as fast.
According to the EPA, in 2010 more than 34 million tons of food waste were generated. Moreover, Americans throw away about 40 percent of the nation’s food supply every year. That’s unbelievable, especially considering how many nations are out there with masses of starving people.
It’s too simple to say we’re just young and our generation doesn’t realize that we’re even doing it. There is something underneath, and it’s a characteristic of our millennial generation. With our smartphones and Hokie passports, everything is so accessible, so easy. It’s hard to realize how much effort and time it takes to put all these luxuries in front of us. What’s so effortless to obtain can be so effortless to disregard.
This leads into my second point: we’re wasting our food like we’re wasting our education. The reason why we’re even getting an education is so that we won’t have to do jobs like the dish section at West End Market. Education is the only thing we have the separates us from the rest; however, we treat it like food that we don’t need to finish. Because it is so accessible after high school, it has lost its uniqueness and its
In a Christian Science Monitor article, Caryn McTighe Musil of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, says, “A bachelor's (degree) is what a high school diploma used to be."
To an extent, that’s our fault. Somehow we’ve made college a buffer zone; an extension of high school that provides us a security blanket from the hard work people are susceptible to in the real world. It seems like each of us are living for the weekends. Checking your Virginia Tech email for class cancellations is the only hope you have in the morning. Reading? Well, that’s for suckers.
The job market is terrible and tuition prices are rising, but they are not scapegoats for our generation’s lack of intellectual curiosity. Becoming a better, worldlier person is the goal of a higher level instruction, and once you find what you love, the rest will come. Think of your education as a plate of your favorite food from West End. Rather than ordering $60,000 worth of debt and only eating the bits and pieces you enjoy the most then throwing it away, eat the entire plate — including the green stuff.