It’s easy to waste food on occasion, and we likely don’t think too much about it. Yet, when we look at the environmental and economic impact of our food supply, excessive food waste is an issue that cannot be ignored.
According to a National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) issue paper,1 40% of the food in the United States goes uneaten. 40%! That’s almost half! “Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables.”
Of course, this issue is not limited to the United States alone. A New York Times article2 in 2015 states that a third of all the food produced in the world is never consumed.
Positive change happens one step at a time, and our daily actions can make a difference. In light of these staggering statistics, here are several action steps we can take today to make an impact:
Sounds simple, right? Just like any well executed plan, planning meals can help take the waste out of a shopping trip. Make that grocery list before you leave home, and stick to it.
Organize that fridge
While this methodology isn’t breakthrough, it’s certainly effective when it comes to avoiding accidental waste. Rotate the contents of your refrigerator to keep items vulnerable to spoilage within sight. Keep taller items in the back, and group like items together. Take a quick inventory each time you begin to prepare a meal, and use it before you lose it!
Support businesses that are taking action steps towards reducing food waste
An example is selling “ugly” produce. This has been a common practice in Europe, but is still gaining traction here in the US. There are signs that things are starting to change. An article in USA Today3 this past April stated, “Whole Foods Market says it will sell the "ugly" produce that would otherwise go to waste at a handful of its Northern California stores beginning in late April. The pilot project, in collaboration with Imperfect Produce, an Emeryville, Calif.-based startup, marks one of the first forays by a national grocery chain into the movement to cut food waste.”
For those unavoidable bits of uneaten food, you can still avoid its fate to become waste. Composting keeps biodegradable scraps from becoming landfill material, and when properly executed, can help grow new crops! Many cities now offer curbside compost. If your city does not offer curbside compost, they may have other resources for you. For example, the city of Boston provides backyard compost bins at a subsidized cost of about half the suggested retail price.
- NRDC Issue Paper. August 2012. Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Author: Dana Gunders.
- New York Times. February 25, 2015. Food Waste is Becoming a Serious Economic and Environmental Issue, Report Says.
- Startups see potential in 'ugly food' rejected by supermarkets. USA Today. March 11, 2016.