USD Student Entrepreneur Transforms Waste Food into Sustainable Smoothies

It’s smooth, it’s sustainable, it’s refreshing—it’s a sustainable smoothie from Re:Fresh Smoothies, a social enterprise concept that won first prize at the University of San Diego’s preliminary competition for this year’s Fowler Global Innovation Challenge.

Austin Hirsh, a USD graduate student and inventor of Re:Fresh Smoothies, went on to compete in the worldwide round of the Fowler contest on June 15, in which 44 teams of student entrepreneurs from 12 countries competed. Re:Fresh Smoothies finished in the top 10 and received the Audience Choice Award.

The Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge is a social-venture pitch competition that recognizes and rewards student-led social ventures focused on sustainable change.

Austin Hirsh has developed a product that turns rejected produce into a dried mix for healthy smoothies.

Hirsh hit upon the idea for Re:Fresh as a way to reduce food waste while promoting healthy eating. He uses imperfect and surplus produce to create instant smoothie mixes. Simply pour the dry contents of a packet into a blender with ice and water, and you’ve got a sustainable smoothie.

“What I’m trying to do is curb the food-waste issue in America,” Hirsh said in his “Shark Tank”-like pitch at the USD event. “Also, I drink a smoothie every day. And it was really annoying to have to get different ingredients from the pantry and the freezer and the fridge and have, like, six bags out. So I wanted a solution where I could get all of the ingredients in one package.”

Hoola One, a machine that removes microplastics from beaches, won the top Changemaker Award and a grand prize of $22,000 in the global competition.

Truely, a team of students from San Diego State, took second place in the worldwide Changemaker category for their idea to create a new breed of pure, plant-made plastics to replace traditional petrochemical-based plastic products.

Guilford College Ranks in Top 10 in RecycleMania Tournament

In a remarkable display of its commitment to recycling and reducing food waste, Sullivan Foundation partner school Guilford College ranked sixth in the Per Capita Classic, seventh in Food Organics, and 39th in Food Diversion in RecycleMania’s recent eight-week tournament.

So what is RecycleMania? “RecycleMania is a friendly competition between colleges and universities across the country and Canada that are committed to bringing awareness to recycling and waste on college campuses,” explained psychology major Kathleen Casperson.

Casperson’s work as an apprentice with Guilford’s Office of Sustainability led to her involvement with RecycleMania.

“Hana Malone, the student Coordinator of RecycleMania, and myself measured the waste and recycling dumpsters biweekly,” she said. “We entered this data into a spreadsheet, which calculated the number of pounds we were wasting versus recycling. Throughout the event, Hana and I tabled in Founders Hall to bring awareness to RecycleMania. Daisie Stewart, Sustainability Coordinator for Meriwhether Godsey (the Guilford dining hall), assisted in these tabling events by involving the cafeteria in our efforts toward sustainability.”

“My favorite part was the tabling events in Founders,” Casperson said. “One event we organized was using aluminum cans from the cafeteria and making herb planters out of them. We added compost, and students could choose from six varieties of herbs to plant in their can. While the students were potting their plant, we would talk to them about what can and cannot be recycled according to the North Carolina regulations. It was fun to see how excited the students were about this project, and I felt like it really encouraged an effort to live sustainably.”

Reducing food waste on college campuses is a major goal for Recyclemania.

Reflecting on how Guilford’s participation in Recyclemania aligns with Guilford’s core values, Casperson said, “This event encouraged community on campus because it called for direct action in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint. Recycling and reduction of food waste is imperative for the betterment of our entire community. It also encouraged students to act with integrity and responsibility by implementing sustainable practices.”

“Guilford does well in this competition partly because we make it pretty easy to recycle —with recycle bins next to landfill (bins) in nearly every location on campus, inside and outside,” said Director of Sustainability David Petree. “It doesn’t hurt that we live in an area that offers single-stream recycling. We don’t have to sort paper from plastic from glass and so on. Our numbers are very much helped by the fact that we compost nearly all of our food waste. Food waste is very heavy, and campuses generally create a lot of it. The competition is based on weights.”

David also said that, despite how well Guilford ranked in RecycleMania’s national competition, there’s a lot of work to be done. “It needs to be said that the competition assumes people always place recyclables in the recycling containers and trash in the trash or landfill containers. This is not the case here or most other places. When we do audits of our containers, we find contamination. During our recent student move-out, several recycling containers had to be hauled to the landfill due to the amount of contamination.”

This story is a slightly edited version of the original article on the Guilford College website.