The holidays seem like the perfect time to talk about food and specifically food waste. Imagine this: You go to the grocery store and buy five bags of groceries for a holiday party. As you stagger across the parking lot, you drop two bags on the ground…and keep walking. Yes, you just leave them there.
That’s what Americans essentially do every day–waste up to 40 percent of the food they buy. At the same time, one in seven Americans struggles to put enough food on the table. That’s crazy.
Fortunately lots of people and institutions are deeply concerned about food waste and working to create more just, more sustainable, and healthier food systems.
But first let’s take a quick look at the real cost of food waste, both financial and environmental.
According to the book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), the average American family spends approximately $2,220 per year on food that is never eaten. According to the United Nations, if food waste were a country, it would be the third highest global greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the U.S. The World Bank estimates that food waste produces 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The food itself is only the tip of the iceberg of what actually gets wasted. The energy (usually fossil fuels), water, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, (often made with fossil fuels) and other resources used to grow that food and get it from the farm to the consumer have big negative impacts on the environmental and the climate.
But can’t we simply compost the food waste? Yes but that won’t reduce the resources used to over-produce food and it won’t help the families and children who don’t have enough food to eat. Composting, which has many important benefits, should be the last resort after preventing the food waste in the first place.
So what can you do to start reducing food waste?
• Buy the “ugly” produce (bruised fruit, knobby carrots, funny-looking potatoes).
• Ask if the store offers still good, but on-its-way-out, produce at a discount.
• Make an “Eat Me First” bin or use a dry erase board to note what needs to be eaten soon.
• Use clear containers to store leftovers and/or label and date the contents.
• Plan to have a leftovers night each week. Casseroles, stir-fries, frittatas, soups, and smoothies are great ways to use leftovers and wilted vegetables.
• Don’t let food go to waste when you are out-and-about and can’t finish your dinner. Bring your own to-go container for leftovers.
• Recruit a team of volunteers from Boulder’s Community Fruit Rescue to pick your apples or other edible fruit before it falls.
Check Eco-Cycle’s website for more ways to reduce food waste this holiday day season and every day.
KGNU will bring you recycling tips and covering zero waste issues throughout the year in partnership with Eco-Cycle, thanks to a grant from Boulder County.