True confession: I feel terrible pangs of guilt when I throw things out. I am by no means a hoarder, but a quick scan of the shelves to my left displays my baby shoes, grandfather’s shoe horns, little dolls I picked up in northern Thailand, a ceramic elephant from Zimbabwe, half read books, and a baseball caught at a ball game (among other items).
In my kitchen is a container of plastic silverware from food delivery; doubles of can openers (note: I hardly ever eat food from cans), spices I’ll rarely use and a wine/bottle opener in the shape of a London pay phone…
Yes, they all have meaning and I do consistently donate items to charity, but when it comes perishable food that is usually not an option.
Last night I went to a panel discussion about “Food Waste in the City.” It was an interesting discussion with experts from academia, government and NGOs focused on solutions in three segments: prevention, recovery and recycling.
40% of food in America is wasted. Just sit with that for a second.
And it’s not only the food that’s wasted, it’s the water, labor, fuel and money that goes into getting it from the farm to your trash can, and ultimately landfill. Check out this fun video depicting the journey of a strawberry.
Some other troubling stats include:
- The percentage of water wasted when we waste food is a staggering 24% of all water used for agriculture.
- Every year, American consumers, businesses, and farms spend $218 billion – 1.3% of GDP – growing, processing, transporting, and disposing food that is never eaten.
- Waste occurs throughout the supply chain, with nearly 85% occurring downstream at consumer-facing businesses (grocers, restaurants, institutional cafeterias) and homes. Meanwhile 42 million Americans, 1 in 6, remain food insecure.
The good news is we can each take small steps toward significantly reducing this problem, right now just by implementing prevention practices such as:
- Tray-less dining and use of smaller plates, so you pile on less and thus waste less.
- Go proudly into the grocer and buy ugly food – did you know that Fresh Direct is now offering discounted “ugly food” boxes?
- Eat food after the expiration date. Yup I just said that. Besides the fact that “expiration” and “use by” dates are confusing, they are not regulated. Use common sense – if it smells, looks and tastes fine, then it is!
- Eat what's in the fridge, even if you’re bored with it. Throw it into salads, pasta and frittatas.
- Plan better, and don’t over buy. My husband Bob always overbuys, so I usually tag along behind him pulling items out of the grocer basket.
- Help people appreciate food more and waste less. Start with young children, and involve them in growing and cooking food, and educate around what happens to it when not eaten.
In regard to recovery and recycle practices, work toward a mindset shift to consider ways to divert foods from landfill. Bob’s pickle company uses “ugly” cucumbers and makes them into relish. Sir Kensington’s uses the liquid from chickpeas to make vegan mayonnaise.
What’s in your fridge that you can redirect into homemade soups, sauces, dips or smoothies instead of the trash? Some other suggestions include:
- Repurpose canned food drives to fresh food drives (ampyourgood.com).
- Inquire about the practices at your favorite restaurants and stores, and encourage businesses to be green.
- Compost. A quick Google search will show where to do so in your area
- Vote! Yes, today is Election Day so if you haven’t already, research which candidates prioritize what’s important to you. The future relies on whom you elect.
Importantly, don’t feel bad if food waste just hadn’t occurred to you until reading this article. It’s always been “a thing,” but now it’s a thing that’s becoming a movement. Take small steps toward reducing your family’s waste just a little, and you will not only have to take out the garbage less, but also have done something good for the environment.
Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™
P.S. Below is a list of useful websites: