Save Food, Save Energy, Save the Planet

Waste not, want not goes the old adage, but here in the United States, many do not heed this maxim at all. According to the United Nations Environment Program, between 30 and 40 percent of the food in the country winds up being discarded and ends up in landfills. This wastage isn’t caused by poor industrial processes or transportation snafus, which is the case in some developing countries. Rather, Americans purchase a lot of food that they don’t consume and then throw it out. This is a large problem that contributes to global warming as well as increased prices for foodstuffs.

Food, as it decomposes, releases significant quantities of methane, which is a greenhouse gas. When we tally up the carbon emissions released during the process of growing, harvesting, and shipping this ultimately unused food, the picture for climate change becomes even more grim. According to Alberta Energy, about 14 percent of the greenhouse gases in the United States are from this food production and food waste. Agriculture uses quite a bit of oil and gas, so any food grown that isn’t eaten represents a waste of these scarce resources. Over-farming, deforestation, and desertification get worse as growers around the world struggle to supply not just our legitimate needs but also the portion of the crop that ends up discarded.

Food Waste Problem

Worldwide, the problem amounts to a staggering 1.3 billion tons of food squandered annually, which is about a third of all the food produced. While some of this loss is a result of infrastructure and productivity inefficiencies in poor nations, it’s estimated that the United States is responsible for 20 pounds of wasted food per person every month. We therefore need to put our own house in order before worrying about what the rest of the world is doing.

The reasons for this profligacy include an unwillingness to eat food with even tiny imperfections notwithstanding that cosmetic irregularities have no impact on the taste of the items in question. Overenthusiastic confidence in printed expiration dates also plays a part. The truth is that most such dates are too conservative, and products are often good for a far lengthier period of time than that indicated.

Consumption Solutions & Tools

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for ordinary individuals to tackle the issue of food waste. By purchasing only what you intend to eat and by saving leftovers for later consumption, you can reduce the amount that you throw in the trash. Go grocery shopping on a full stomach so that you won’t be tempted into making impulse purchases. Remember to store consumables in an appropriate way, whether this involves refrigeration, freezing or the use of airtight containers, so that you can extend their usable lifespans. Trust in your senses of smell and taste when it comes to groceries that have passed their best-by dates. These printed recommendations are just guidelines. A certain amount of miscalculation is probably unavoidable, but you can dispose of much of your extra food through donations to food banks and by composting at home.

Modern technology has stepped into the picture to give smartphone users easy ways of addressing the matter of food waste. The Green Egg Shopper app will help you plan out your meals ahead of time so that you can incorporate expiration date information into your purchasing and cooking decisions. Fridge Pal will come up with recipes using the current contents of your kitchen so that you don’t feel the urge to go out and get more groceries. 222 Million Tons will take into account your family size to generate shopping lists and menus with the double purposes of achieving varied and interesting meals while simultaneously reducing wasted food.

The ecologically devastating effects of thrown-away food along with the fact that there are plenty of ways to avoid it mean that it’s irresponsible to let this situation continue unaddressed. Besides caring for Mother Nature, you’ll also probably save quite a fair sum by personally adjusting your behavior to shop only for what you’ll actually use. If enough people take action to combat food waste, we’ll see a host of benefits within our country and around the world.

Beth Sarah is a blogger based in the cold and windy city of Chicago, IL. She graduated from DePaul University in 2011 and is a passionate advocate for the environment. She lives with her pet rabbit, Anthony Hopkins.

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