Waste Not, Want Not

While at camp with my daughter last week, it was amusing to be an 11-year old again. Yes, I was there as a chaperone (“18 in Cabin 4…all accounted for!” ) and even a Mom (“zip up your jacket!”), but at moments I tried to view my surroundings through seventh grade eyes.

There’s no lack of stamina with this crowd. They love to hike and get dirty and enjoy picking up bright orange, squiggly salamanders. Questions, laughter and goofiness abounds. Rain does not phase them in the least.

I learned a few little tidbits this week, not the least of which is that I value a hot shower immensely. Just when you think you know all sorts of things as an adult, when you step out of your usual surroundings you go and learn a few more things.

Mushrooms are more related to animals than plants. Somewhat creepy.

The White Pine has five needles. Probably don’t need to absolutely know that one, but maybe someday it will come in handy. On Jeopardy.

Don’t burn Mountain Laurel bushes.They are highly toxic. ‘K then…good to know for the next firepit night. Wouldn’t want to kill the guests.

And I was introduced to the word “Ort”, which is an Old English term for scraps or leftover food.

The Ort Report. One was given at every meal by a member of the staff and it was one of the smartest things at this camp. Wasting food, a concept that we are all aware of, but when it’s shown in tangible ways it really hits home. The idea was that at the beginning of the week, at the first meal, all the uneaten food (and drink) would be gathered and weighed. A chart was created. Would there be change over the course of five days? That was the mystery. And the goal.

The first lunch for 200 plus people landed us in the 22 pound range. That number didn’t seem to startle the staff horribly, but they weren’t exactly cheering and waving pom-poms either. It was average by their estimations of the camp meals.

Second meal. 23 pounds. I cringed for a moment thinking (irrationally) that we would be the only school to UP our poundage of Ort during the week. We would slink away in shame. This could get embarrassing quickly. I learned that the average family sends about $600 a year out the window from all the food that goes uneaten in their fridges. Items that get pushed to the back and forgotten. Veggies and fruit that rot before we eat them. $600. That’s six massages. Or a mini get-away. Or oil to heat your home.

Third meal. 22 pounds. Phew! Down a pound! Good eating, estimating and not wasting, kids!

Maybe it was a combo of the kids being outside more and being active ALL day long (hmmm….rarely do we see overweight farmers….just sayin’), maybe it was because they were not snacking in between meals save for bottled waters and fresh apples, or maybe….maybe they were making more conscious choices with their food. I don’t think it was because they didn’t like the offerings…the food was good and everyone I saw was shoveling the stuff in like there was no tomorrow.

Hmmm…could The Ort Report be making a little impact?

I left after the fourth meal, at which I believe we were still in the 22 pound range. Arg.

At the end of the week, I was crazy-curious to hear how this experiment concluded. Ort at dinner that second night FELL THROUGH THE FLOOR….9 pounds!

What the heck happened?

Kids were not just shoveling. They were analyzing a tad more than they had previously. Cool.

The rest of the week continued in this fashion and I believe our group ended the week with something like a mere ONE POUND wastage.

200 tweens, camp staff, chaperones and teachers. One pound.


And of course, since coincidence is the name of the game, Cooking Light magazine has a big article on portion control in their October issue. Slow down your eating, don’t snack mindlessly, stop when you feel full. Nothing radical here, but for some reason, they might as well be asking so many of us to knit a mu-mu with our eyes closed and hands tied behind our a backs. It’s that hard. We’re approaching holiday season (and frankly are in it if you are counting Halloween candy, as I am. Reese’s are my Achilles Heel. Be dammed, you little orange package!) so this is war.

Basically, if you pay attention, you will eat less. Or in the case of The Mighty Ort Report, waste less. Win-win. For our waist-lines and the environment. How can you beat that?

So on Halloween (or as soon as I buy a bag), if I pay attention, I will consume only 2 Reese’s peanut butter cups instead of 10. And to be over-the-top-Ort-minded, I will not waste a single crumb AND I will eat the wrapper, too.


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