World Environment Day: How Dignity Health Sports Park Is Helping To Reduce Food Waste
As we mark World Environment Day on June 5, 2022, we need to reflect on what we all stand to lose by the impact of climate change on our food systems are. Since the 1990s, the number of extreme weather-related disasters has doubled. Over the same period, food harvests have decreased, and prices have risen. With global food supplies under threat, the climate crisis is fueling a hunger crisis around the world.
Today it is estimated that 42 million Americans are food insecure. According to the Oxford Dictionary, food insecurity is defined as "the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food."
With so many people needing food, why as a country are we wasting so much? Food spoilage is one of the biggest reasons people throw out food. More than 8 out of 10 Americans discard perfectly good food simply because they misunderstand expiration labels. Labels like “sell by”, “use by”, “expires on”, “best before” or “best by” can be confusing and rather than risk the potential of being ill, they’ll toss perfectly edible food in the garbage.
Exacerbating the crisis, is the fact that 40% of all food that is produced goes straight to the landfill. Today, food waste sent to landfills contributes to 11% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is because in a landfill food waste increases methane emissions in our atmosphere, adding to the climate crisis and creating more problems for our planet when the food could be feeding people instead.
“Reducing food waste is something that everyone needs to be aware of and do their part,” says Adam Duvendeck, vice president of operations at AEG’s Dignity Health Sports Park, the world’s most sustainable soccer facility and home to the MLS world-cup champions, the LA Galaxy. “If individuals and large corporations make small changes to their food consumption and waste habits, the impacts could be very meaningful.”
To help educate and encourage employees to be conscious of food supplies and waste, in 2017, Dignity Health Sports Park started the Galaxy Garden, with two four-by-eight garden boxes. Since then, the garden has grown into an expanse of seasonal produce, citrus groves, a chicken coop and a greenhouse that regularly provide food for staff and player meals. Now, 25 employees have garden boxes they tend, cultivating an impressive variety of fruits, vegetables, greens, and herbs. In addition to the garden, the park maintains commercial hive boxes, and now runs an eight-hive apiary.
Dignity Health Sports Park and the LA Galaxy also work beyond the 126 acres campus help educate and make a difference in neighboring communities. The LA Galaxy’s charitable foundation works with Garden School Foundation, bringing teachers to build gardens at schools and teach kids about healthy eating. Dignity Health Sports Park and Galaxy employees have also helped build a garden at Carson’s Leapwood Avenue Elementary School which the helps beautify and maintain. The Foundation also hosts field trips to the stadium for local students, where they can visit Galaxy Garden and learn from club members, take cooking classes, and visit the LA Galaxy practice sessions.
Dignity Health Sports Park is also working with food rescue startup Copia to get leftovers from the stadium to local food shelters. The partnership is expected to provide tens of thousands of meals and create a carbon footprint decrease equivalent to removing 20 cars from the road for a year.
Since forming its partnership with Copia, Dignity Health Sports Park has:
- donated more than 319 pounds of edible food
- delivered more than 266 meals to non-profit organizations in Southern California
- Saved 31.6 thousand gallons of water
- And diverted 1,426 pounds of CO2 emissions
“We are very proud of everything we are doing, but recognize that there is more to do,” adds Duvendeck. “We have the opportunity to showcase our efforts and educate more than one million guests that visit Dignity Health Sports Park each year. If any of those guests leave our stadium and start practicing some of our initiatives in their own lives, it will have a much broader impact than anything that we can do solely on our campus.”
Dignity Health Sports Park was the first to use recycled water for irrigation. In 2016, it became the first soccer-specific venue in MLS with an LED lighting system, cutting energy consumption by 60 percent. With that came the installation of the largest AI-powered energy storage system of any U.S. stadium. There’s a rack lined with California cruiser bicycles that employees use to reduce gas-powered trips around the sprawling grounds. Additionally, the park features an ORCA digester, an imposing machine that composts wet food items into sludge that can safely go into the sewer instead of being hauled out.