Leading into the holidays this year, we wanted to share with you a bit about one of the worst kinds of waste in our country -- food waste! In the United States alone, 40 percent of food gets tossed every year. That amounts to $162 billion in waste annually, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. This is about 20 pounds a person per month, and more than ⅓ of our food! Imagine leaving the grocery store with three bags of food, knowing that one of them will inevitably end up in the trash. Pretty wild, isn’t it?!
It never feels good to throw out food that’s gone bad before you could use it, and we’ve all been there. But did you know that a large portion of our waste is made up of products that are still viable? The dates that you see marked on your food are decided on by manufacturers, not by health experts. This means that margins for when we are told that our food is good to eat are very tight to encourage you to buy more food more often. And according to the FDA, only baby food is officially required to have expiration dates. The variety of labeling practices, including “best-before”, “sell-by” and “use by” cause confusion for many customers as well. The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) has approved a plan to standardize food date labels globally, with a goal of cutting food waste in half by 2025. We are so looking forward to this change!
Food waste is not only a colossal tragedy because of all those that go hungry (of which there are millions), but also because of the enormous cost both to individual families and the economy at large. About 21 percent of agricultural water consumption and 2.6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food waste. We are consistently wasting labor and natural resources by pumping water into food that fills landfills.
Oddly enough, our pervasive beauty standards are also extending past the cosmetics and fashion industry, and into our food. Irregularly shaped produce (that is perfectly fine to eat) is considered to have ⅔ of the market value to a farmer. Perfectly good produce often gets tossed aside, and unlike decomposing fruits and vegetables out in nature, decomposing in a compacted landfill without air creates methane gas.
Here are a few quick things you can do to diminish your food waste:
- Plan out your meals for the week before you go grocery shopping, so you’re only buying ingredients that you know you will use!
- Donate when you can. If you anticipate having food you can’t use before it goes bad, give it to a family in need in your community. Learn more about how to regularly donate food here.
- Follow your intuition on when food expires, as opposed to the dates you see printed. Freeze food that you want to save for a longer amount of time!
- Resist buying in bulk just for net savings. Unless you’re feeding a large amount of people, buying bulk options most likely will lead to extra waste.
- Grow your own fruits and vegetables (and share your bounty with neighbors!) or see if services like Misfits Market or Imperfect Produce deliver to your area!