According to a paper released by the (NRDC) Natural Resources Defense Council Americans waste roughly 40% of the national food supply every year. Shockingly enough all of this food waste ends up as the second largest contributor of solid waste in landfills throughout the US behind paper products and packaging. So you may be asking yourself who is responsible for all of this food waste and is there really anything I can do as one person to fix it?
Who is Responsible?
Many think of the end consumer when they think of food waste. While many individuals and families contribute to the problem, the waste happens during virtually every step of the way to your home. Waste starts on the farm, during transit, in grocery stores, in restaurants and everywhere else in between.
What are the costs of Food Waste?
There are many cost associated with the waste of food financially, socially and environmentally. It’s estimated that the overall financial impact of food waste in America is a whopping $165 billion a year. This includes water waste, gas transport waste, the extra cost to the consumer, and disposal costs among others. What that means to the average family is over $2,000 a year. If you consider the social aspect and how many families are not able to afford healthy meals, just a 15% reduction in food waste could feed 25 million people in the US every year. This could make an enormous impact considering 13.6% of American households were on supplemental food programs or “food stamps” in 2012, according to a Census Bureau report. As if the financial and social impacts weren’t enough, food waste accounts for over ¼ of methane gases released into the atmosphere. To put this in perspective methane gas is one of the most harmful of the greenhouse gases that depletes the ozone and leads to climate change. Also all of the extra fertilizer and pesticides contribute to natural habitat erosion. Not to mention all of the extra fuel that cost money also is more pollution in the air. Without a doubt the overall costs stretch far.
How Can You Help Fight Food Waste?
All of the cost estimates and impacts can leave anyone feeling a little green guilt, you know the kind of guilt you feel when you don’t recycle your water bottle or leave the lights on. So that might lead you to think that one person can’t possibly make a dent in those millions and billions figures, but you would be wrong.
1. Source Local Sustainable Food
One major way to help prevent food waste is to eat from local growers who practice sustainable agriculture. What this means is these farmers use methods that conserve energy, reduce chemical exposure and nurture their growing fields for continued reuse. These practices do not yield large crop amounts and are generally distributed at local farmer’s markets or local grocers and the health and environmental benefits are astounding.
2. Plan Food Purchases
In addition to purchasing sustainable food you can do your part to prevent food waste by planning out your grocery trips. If you know ahead of time what you plan to cook chances are you will not have extra ingredients laying around that will rot without any plans to cook them.
3. Use Your Own Judgement
Finally, learn what the different expiration dates mean like “sell by” and “use by.” If your cheese sprouts a spot of mold it is perfectly fine to cut it off and eat the rest of the block. You can also judge a lot by the smell, texture and coloration of the product. Just because the product has reached this magic date doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not safe to eat.
It’s up to each and every individual to pitch in if we are ever going to fix this problem so be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.