Teaching Sustainability Practice through Service Learning: A Case Study of Reducing Food Waste

University of Southern Maine, University of Wyoming

Publication Release Date: Feb. 11, 2021
Date Posted: April 8, 2021
Submitted by: Tessie Devlin
Sustainability Topics: Curriculum, Food & Dining
Content Type: Publications
Publisher: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Periodical Name: Sustainability and Climate Change
Type: Journal Article


This case report details the collaboration and integration of three distinct courses using a service-learning approach for a grant-based environmental project at the University of Southern Maine (USM). The focus of this project was the intersection of food waste, climate implications, environmental stewardship, and food insecurity in light of mitigation and adaptation. Thirty students in the courses Food and Environment, Green Meetings and Conference Management, and Sustainable Business Practicum worked with 14 different community partners to develop plans to reduce food waste and their related environmental impacts. Small multidisciplinary teams of students measured and evaluated food waste, learned regulatory and business environments of food and cooking oils, explored options for better food utilization and donation, developed best practices for local partnerships and technologies, and communicated plans to their respective community partners in written form and summative oral presentation. Both the pedagogical service-learning model and food waste project align with the institutional commitment to climate change education and mitigation while engaging students in experiential learning that directly benefits the local community.