Have you ever thought twice about throwing out last week’s leftovers? Turns out, you’re not alone! According to the fifth annual Eco Pulse survey, 39% of Americans feel the most “green guilt” for wasting food.
A recent issue paper from the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), “Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill,” established a framework about U.S. food waste, summarizing the opportunities available to reduce wasted food. Here are some of the paper’s major findings:
- Americans trash 40% of our food supply every year (that’s around $165 billion)
- The average American family of four ends up throwing away the equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food
- Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills
- Just a 15% reduction in losses in the U.S. food supply would save enough food to feed 25 million Americans annually
Dana Gunders, a NRDC project scientist and the issue paper’s author states, “With the price of food continuing to grow, and drought jeopardizing farmers nationwide, now is the time to embrace all the tremendous untapped opportunities to get more out of our food system.”
Jonathan Bloom, author of “American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half its Food (And What We Can do About It),” attributes the main reasons as to why Americans waste so much food to abundance, beauty, and cost. He says,“In terms of beauty, we have reached the point where appearance trumps taste with our food. Anything that doesn’t meet those requirements — whether in the store or in the home — often ends up being thrown out.”
Yet, according to the USDA 1 in 6 Americans don’t have enough to eat.
In order to increase the efficiency of the American food system, the NRDC believes that we must collectively work together by involving decision-makers at every level of the supply chain. Dana Gunders and project scientists hold true that this type of multi-pronged response is needed to prevent this alarming issue from getting worse. They believe that the key decision-makers are the federal government, state and local governments, businesses both large and small, and of course, the individual American citizen.
Here are some tips to reduce your family’s food waste footprint today:
- Grocery shop more frequently, to minimize the potential for wasting perishable produce.
- At the grocery store or farmers market, bring reusable bags with you to save on throw away plastic.
- Create a detailed shopping list to help curb costly and unnecessary add-ons.
- Freeze any leftovers that you know will not be eaten within a few days, and reuse those leftovers from dinner to pack for lunch the next day.
- Organize your fridge, and keep tabs on what it holds. Knowing your inventory helps reduce food waste. Keep half used items in plain sight so you feel inspired to use them up first.
- Make an everything dish that uses up ingredients that need to be cooked, like a frittata, vegetable soup, quick breads or casseroles.
- Compost: if you don’t have space for a compost bin, you can keep a sturdy freezer bag of your food scraps and store in your freezer. Freezing your compost will help cut out any smells. Many farmers markets take household compost, like GrowNYC. Just bring it on over, and your food scraps will be turned into fertile soil for use in urban farming and gardening projects.
Becoming informed of the waste that we contribute to is just the first step. Check out how some people have started to tackle the waste, and try finding a better home for your food than the landfill. For inspiring examples of food waste solutions, take a look at what City Harvest and the Food Bank for New York City are up to. Let us know what steps you are taking to help curb your food waste at home.
Photo courtesy of Loopzilla