As a nation, we waste a TON of food. Somewhere between 30-40% of our food goes wasted, and organic materials (which is broader than just food waste) are the largest single component of municipal solid waste. We waste about 20 pounds of food waste per person per month. Although there’s not a whole lot that’s exciting about that, what is exciting is that we can do something about it!
As consumers, we can tackle the issue of food waste first by changing the way we think about food. When we look at a head of broccoli, for example, it’s important to consider all of the inputs that went into creating that head of broccoli. Think about the soil nutrients that were taken up by its roots, the irrigation that was used to keep it alive, the labor taken to plant, cultivate, and harvest, store, and transport it. Most food in America is transported from the field to a temporary holding facility, then to a larger warehouse, and finally to the store where it is purchased and once again transported to be eaten. Food in America travels on average 1500 miles before ending up on your plate, and the food industry as a whole is responsible for about 13% of total greenhouse gas emissions in America. The next time you are throwing food in the garbage, think about how much more you are throwing away than just a piece of food.
Once we understand the importance of not wasting food, we can take steps to reduce the amount of food that we waste. We can do things like planning dinners ahead of time, making grocery lists, and not buying unneeded food that may likely end up going bad and in the garbage. We can learn what parts of plants are edible, and what’s not, so the next time a recipe calls to peel and discard the potato skins, we can ignore it. We can save our edible vegetable scraps in the freezer, and when we’ve saved a good amount, make broth. And when despite all these efforts, when food still goes to waste, we can compost it.