We Are What We Don’t Eat: Food Waste In The United States
For those who missed it, the UN’s World Environment Day just passed us by in the beginning of June. This year’s theme, Think. Eat. Save, focused on anti-food waste and food loss campaigns, given that we’re now producing record amounts of food that never even make it to the table.
Being quite frugal about food waste myself, I feel it’s important to maintain the recent attention this issue’s been receiving, and to continue raising awareness wherever possible.
It seems most still haven’t come to terms with the poor state of our current food systems – it’s as though there is a monumental disconnect between the food in our mouths, where it came from, and how it got there. And then there are those that just don’t yet realize this food waste problem even exists…
And yes it’s true that we’ll never completely eliminate all our food waste, nor the damage it has on this planet. But there’s many important ways you can reduce the environmental impact of your food waste — in fact, here’s 7 of the best.
Based on our current situation, it seems much more fitting to say we are what we don’t eat.
You see, much of the environmental consequences we are faced with now and in the future – see the UN’s most recent report How To Feed The World In 2050 – can be attributed to the food we are not eating today. This UN report predicts there’ll be around 250 million environmental refugees searching for food by 2050. That’s the population of Indonesia.
Here’s some fast facts on food waste in the United States you ought to know:
• Food waste has increased by 50 percent from 1974 to 2006.
• Subsequently, 40 percent of the food produced never reaches anyone’s plate
• In the US, the average supermarket throws away 700 to 800 pounds of food daily, whether from out of date products or fresh produce that isn’t up to standards.
• The size of the average portion of soda, fries and hamburgers has nearly doubled in the last 30 years.
• America produces twice the amount of food needed per person per year.
• 97 percent of food waste ends up in a landfill or incinerator, where it becomes an environmental liability. The methane gas produced by food waste is around 20 times more potent than CO2.
• Food production needs to increase by 70 percent to meet food demand by 2050… and 3/5 of that increased food supply could be achieved by significantly reducing food waste.
With 15 percent of Americans not guaranteed to have access to food today, almost 40 percent of Americans obese, and 40 percent of food ending up in the garbage, it boggles the mind that these rates of hunger, obesity and waste can coexist so seamlessly in one place.
So what can we do about the problem?
Well despite what many believe, even as individuals we can make a difference.
One drop of water plus another drop of water doesn’t equal two drops of water- it equals a bigger drop of water. In other words, the actions we take as individuals can build upon one another to make a collective difference.
Even these little things add up: Only buying and cooking what you need; storing foods smartly by adopting the first in first out (FIFO) principle for your fridge; reimagining your leftovers for another night. In fact you can read in more detail about these food wastage tips here.
And importantly we should eat less meat as well, especially red meat. Did you know it takes over 6 gallons of water to produce one hamburger?
“Food is simply too good to waste” is the slogan of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an organization at the forefront of the fight against food waste. I couldn’t agree more.
After all, food has always been and will always be the foundation of our existence. Caring for it is the only way to protect our health and the health of our planet.
We are what we don’t eat.
What have you been doing to minimize your food waste? Please share your tips.