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The Trashy Side of Food Porn: How Much Food Are You Wasting When Dining Out?

The Trashy Side of Food Porn: How Much Food Are You Wasting When Dining Out?

As the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) points out, the problem of food waste starts at the farm and ends at the fork. Yet, dining venues are also responsible for the food waste that they produce. The NRDC highlights how supersize portions, large menus and inadequate training in food handling contribute to food waste in the industry.

Yet dining patrons aren’t entirely blameless, either. Inside the home, you may do everything that you can to reduce food waste, but you have to live a little, which often means eating out with others. Plus, who doesn’t love to add their mouth-watering plates to Instagram as food porn. Yet, there is a trashy side after the perfect #foodporn shot, and it happens after you eat your meal.

This trashy side is the food waste sitting on your plate. It is taxing both economically and environmentally.

The Real Cost of Dining Out

As covered in The Guardian – in findings for WRAP, a U.K. organization that works for a world without waste — two researchers from Brook Lyndhurst, a sustainability consultancy focusing on independent strategy and research, have compiled research about dining out habits.

Per the research, 27 percent of diners leave food at the end of their meal. Perhaps more surprising, three-fifths of the research subjects reported that they weren’t even concerned about leaving food. Care2 members, how many of you agree with the following statement: ‘I don’t want to have to think about leaving food when I eat out’? If you agreed, then you are in the majority; 59 percent of respondents agreed.

In the UK, 600K tonnes of food waste came solely from pubs, restaurants, hotels and take-aways. While the research explains that scraps, rotten and other inedible foods are part of the food waste, the majority of the food is ‘good.’ Americans aren’t in the clear, either. End Food Waste Now cites a University of Arizona study that “estimated that the total food loss per day amounted to 49,296,540 lbs in all full service restaurants and 85,0063,390 lbs in all fast food restaurants.” American food waste is so ‘good’ that a concerned citizen decided to dumpster dive, or eat from the dumpsters where food is served, for an entire week.

Eating out is (sometimes) expensive and so is the food waste from dining out. The WRAP research found that food waste that came from outside of the home amounted to £720m per year. As reported in The Guardian, food waste is also environmentally expensive because “the lack of oxygen in landfill causes food to break down anaerobically producing methane a greenhouse gas considerably more potent than CO2.”

Why Are Diners Leaving Food Behind?

Many of the respondents, 41 percent to be exact, cited large portions to be the culprit of why they left food behind. Yet, there are several other influencing factors at play, too:

  • Saving room in the belly for courses throughout the meal.
  • Some were there for the dining ‘experience.’
  • Others ‘valued’ food less, in general.
  • Sometimes it boils down to the company at the table. Some people eat more or eat less depending on whoever they are dining with (e.g. a lot of people tend to eat less during a first date).

What About Taking it To-Go?

The solution to food waste from dining out isn’t as easy as requesting a doggy bag. Interestingly, researchers found that 42 percent of respondents felt that “‘asking for a container to take leftovers home is embarrassing.’” Others cited that many dining out venues weren’t very proactive about offering to-go containers and bags. It seems like many diners would appreciate a bolder approach because 74 percent of those surveyed agreed that they would like to be offered a doggy bag.

How to Reduce Your Waste

There are a few quick things that you can do that will help reduce food being wasted the next time that you decide to dine out:

  • Don’t be embarrassed; ask for a doggy bag.
  • If you can, don’t go out to eat in ‘starving mode’ because you are much more likely to order too much food when you are (or think you are) ‘starving.’
  • At the buffet, use smaller plates and stick with smaller portions. You can also try to slow down and savor your food; you might feel fuller than you originally anticipated in the process.
  • Support restaurant initiatives that offer half portions and request that your favorite spots adopt similar initiatives.

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Photo Credit: Alpha

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137 comments

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10:17AM PDT on Jun 21, 2014

If and when I eat out, I plan to take half home with me. And the dog can't have it!

1:58AM PDT on Apr 12, 2014

When I do eat out, have any sort of leftover I bring it home, if not for me it is for my dog.

5:59PM PDT on Apr 8, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

4:27PM PDT on Apr 8, 2014

I don't eat out.. & what the hell is Food Porn ??? A banana & a Taco...

12:18PM PDT on Apr 7, 2014

tks

7:19AM PDT on Apr 7, 2014

everyday, every night, every food service, every restaurant, every school

12:59AM PDT on Apr 7, 2014

The amount of food that is just tossed away is disgusting, in a world full of poverty and hunger, and so many take food for granted that we just throw it away, and not even always rotten food either!

12:50AM PDT on Apr 7, 2014

meanwhile people are starving

8:29PM PDT on Apr 6, 2014

ty for this important article!

4:47PM PDT on Apr 6, 2014

Thank you.

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