Food Waste: A Student’s Perspective

Julian Martinez is a senior at the University of California, Irvine. He is double majoring in political and education science. During his time at UCI, he has served as a food worker, peer mentor, and president of UCI’s Phi Gamma Delta chapter. He is currently a food waste ambassador at UCI. 

Becoming a Food Waste Ambassador

My initial curiosity for sustainability began with my 4th grade teacher’s keen interest in the subject. I kept what she taught me in the back of my mind and continued to be interested in sustainability as I grew up. Now, my motivation to reduce food waste primarily stems from my personal experiences of having lacked food security in the past.

When I arrived at UCI, I accepted a position as a “Green Captain” for one of the restaurants that was participating in a sustainability program at the school. Green Captains act as part time sustainability representatives for the various food locations on campus. After a year in this role, I made the full-time commitment to sustainability and became a UCI food waste ambassador.

In this position, I want to achieve two things:

1) promote higher levels of food-resource efficiency, and

2) instill a sense of gratitude in those who have access to food. 

Current Projects

This year, I have been engaging in food waste research, creating educational programming, and providing outreach to inform the campus community of UCI.

I held the first ever waste audit in my living community, Arroyo Vista. As it turns out, my community has done wonders compared to others in terms of proper waste management and disposal.

Every week, I have hosted booths on campus, engaging students in sustainable activities and allowing them the opportunity to learn what the UCI sustainability center is all about.

Right now, my main two endeavors include helping other UCI students learn more about healthy and mindful eating and revamping a sustainable cookbook that my organization created a few years ago.

In addition, I’m implementing a sustainability chair position within the Sorority and Fraternity life at UCI.

I’m working to see that all of these ideas come to fruition during the 2020-2021 school year.

You can learn more about food waste reduction efforts at UCI here.

What I’ve Learned About Food Waste

Perhaps the most shocking and daunting thing I have learned about the issue of food waste is that the United States spends over $218 billion growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that never gets eaten. This upsets me greatly, considering that there are countless people without access to food. 

In my opinion, the most effective way to significantly reduce food waste is to educate people on the profound effects their individual actions have on the planet and themselves. It is truly a collective effort. Each and every one of us must acknowledge how our own actions contribute to the problem. This is the only way we are ever going to see real change.

Even those who are not so passionate about sustainability can be incentivized to change their habits. We have to lead with the idea that living more sustainably benefits our own health and well-being. Helping the environment is an added bonus.

Moving Forward

To me, people seem overly focused on long-term goals and reaching milestones. In reality, there is no set data point we could reach that would indicate we have accomplished anything in this endeavor, other than totally eradicating food waste or knowing that nobody in the world is food insecure.

In the end, the day-to-day work is just as important as long-term work. If we don’t emphasize the importance of individuals taking small actions every day, it seems unrealistic to set a worldwide goal of halving food waste by 2030. So, we have to focus on what we can do on a daily basis. It’s all about the journey, and not the destination. 

If you find one takeaway here, please know that YOU have the power to make the world a better place. Therefore, creating a cleaner and healthier planet begins with individuals like you acknowledging their own responsibility in this fight. As such, each of us has to make changes toward leading more sustainable lives.


Thank you so much for reading. Much appreciation to the folks at OneThird for allowing me to share my personal testimony. 

If you would like to get in contact with me, please feel free to reach out!

All the power, all the love. 

– Julian Martinez

Email: cjmarti4@uci.edu

LinkedIn: Julian Martinez


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