Did you know that food loss and waste accounts for 31% of the U.S.’s overall food supply annually? It is the single most component of disposed municipal solid waste.
About 90 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten each year. This waste weighs 123x the Empire State Building and costs consumers about $370 per person each year.
An American family of four leaves, on average, more than 2 million calories uneaten each year, which amounts to approximately $1,500.
These facts above were published in the USDA’s news release made in September, 2015, in which the government announced the U.S.’s first-ever national food waste reduction goal of 50% by 2030 (read it here!). Didn’t hear about it? Yeah, me neither. With statistics like the ones above, everyone needs to hear about this.
Consumers account for about 21% of food loss and waste. That’s you and me, through our every day lives. As our population continues to grow, food waste is going to become a pressing issue both in the United States and globally. It impacts the environment (methane gas released by landfills when food rots is 25% more potent than carbon pollution in cars), our economy, natural resources and food security for millions of people.
One of the things I miss most about living in San Francisco is composting. The city is one of a few that has a composting program in which residents are given little composting bins for their kitchens and big green bins to dump scraps in outside. The green bins are picked up weekly with the blue recycling bins. I am not able to do this anymore in the urban area in which I currently live and I have been meaning to do something about all of the food scraps that currently go into my trash.
So what can I (and you) do about this issue? Here are 10 of my favorites. If you have any additional ones, feel free to leave a comment below.
- Eat the whole food. Buy a whole chicken and use the bones to make a killer stock afterwards (here is my go-to recipe for roasted chicken!). Sauté your beet greens after you snip them off of the beets. Roast the entire stem of broccoli and cauliflower along with the florets. Eat your apple to the core. The pits of fruit? Just kidding, you have permission toss those and please do as many of them are poisonous.
- Ask for a doggie bag if you don’t eat all of your food at a restaurant.
- Don’t buy more until you’ve finished what you already have. This will help prevent multitudes of condiments from piling up on the door of your fridge and from having two containers of the same thing open at once. If you run out of Greek yogurt, add it to your grocery list and be creative about what you can eat until you can get some more.
- Plan ahead for your week’s meals, make a grocery list and stick to it. Only buy what you need. Your pocketbook will thank you.
- Re-use ziplock bags. Wash them out and let them dry in your dish drainer. Or get re-usable ziplock bags! I love these ones by Blue Avocado, which I use for raw veggies, my go-to afternoon snack at work.
- Use a slow cooker. Did you know that it uses less energy than a lightbulb? There are so many crock-pot recipes on Pinterest it isn’t even funny.
- Create freezer scrap bags. Use 1 for vegetable stock, 1 for leftover bones to use for chicken stock, 1 for sauces (such as pesto) and 1 for smoothies. I think this is brilliant and am putting this into action pronto.
- Use cloth napkins. Just picture how many paper towels you probably go through on a weekly basis. I’m guessing it’s a lot right? Use cloth towels and napkins in your kitchen and at the dinner table to save a few trees.
- Compost! My parents built their own compost bin for their backyard and once the compost has broken down, they use it in their gardens. Talk about free fertilizer… And if it means anything, their gardens are beautiful. If you are lucky to live in a community that composts, please take advantage of that!
- Recycle. So much goes to landfills that can be recycled and used again. Buy a reusable water bottle instead of buying packs of bottled water. Just make sure it’s BPA free! There are tons these days. I use a glass bottle made by the company Life Factory.
Interested in some more resources? ChooseMyPlate.gov has a whole section on food waste and a 1 page infographic you can print and post on your fridge. Australian Sarah Wilson also writes often about food waste, a topic she is very passionate about (see her blog here!).
Experts project that reducing food losses by 15% would provide enough food for over 25 million Americans each year. Let’s stop feeding landfills and feed people instead. We can all make an individual difference by being more cognizant of food waste in our own lives.
What can you change in your life today to help reduce your overall food waste?
Peace, love and leftovers,